What If There’s No Back to School or Normal: Ai Weiwei’s HUMAN FLOW for UN’s WHD

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Maybe you’ve never heard of Ai Weiwei, who turns 60 on Aug. 28. Once a pro blackjack player, Weiwei still takes huge gambles as China’s best-known living artist, conceptual artist, and filmmaker who is often jailed or at odds with his government. AIWEIwei17There’s a link to his timeline and bio below. But for tomorrow Aug. 19, which the United Nation declared “World Humanitarian Day” back in 2003, Weiwei’s new film HUMAN FLOW has heart-piercing images to share what it is to be a refugee, and why there’s not only no back to school or normal, but no back to safety.

First a Backgrounder on the UN’s World Humanitarian Day

On 19 August 2003, a terrorist attack hit the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, killing 22 people. Among those who lost their lives was Sergio Vieira de Mello, the UN’s top representative in Iraq. Five years later, the General Assembly adopted a resolution designating 19 August as World Humanitarian Day. Every year since then, the humanitarian community has organized global campaigns to commemorate WHD, advocating for the safety and security of humanitarian aid workers, and for the survival, well-being and dignity of people affected by crises.

Now Step Into the HUMAN FLOW Directed by Ai Weiwei

“Over 65 million people around the world have been forced from their homes to escape famine, climate change and war in the greatest human displacement since World War II.  Human Flow, an epic film journey led by the internationally renowned artist Ai Weiwei, gives a powerful visual expression to this massive human migration. The documentary elucidates both the staggering scale of the refugee crisis and its profoundly personal human impact.”

“Captured over the course of an eventful year in 23 countries, the film follows a chain of urgent human stories that stretches across the globe in countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, France, Greece, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, and Turkey.”


“Human Flow is a witness to its subjects and their desperate search for safety, shelter and justice: from teeming refugee camps to perilous ocean crossings to barbed-wire borders; from dislocation and disillusionment to courage, endurance and adaptation; from the haunting lure of lives left behind to the unknown potential of the future. Human Flow comes at a crucial time when tolerance, compassion and trust are needed more than ever.  This visceral work of cinema is a testament to the unassailable human spirit and poses one of the questions that will define this century: Will our global society emerge from fear, isolation, and self-interest and choose a path of openness, freedom, and respect for humanity?”

Amazon Studios and Participant Media present, in association with AC Films, Human Flow, a film directed by Ai Weiwei.  Human Flow is produced by Ai Weiwei, Chin-Chin Yap and Heino Deckert and executive produced by Andrew Cohen of AC Films with Jeff Skoll and Diane Weyermann of Participant Media.AmazStud17PrtMd17

140 Minutes

World Humanitarian Day (WHD) is held every year on August 19 to pay tribute to aid workers who risk their lives in humanitarian service, and to rally support for people affected by crises around the world. For additional information, please visit the UN.

Ai Weiwei’s new film will be released in a limited roll-out on Oct. 13, see website for more details.

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