Text by: Pier Paolo Scelsi
Translated by: Steve Piccolo
Men, women and children, possessing only the strength of their legs, of their “being human” and the human will to survive. The Chinese artist-activist Ai Weiwei arrives at Venezia 74 with his first film, narrating his own personal voyage through 23 so-called “border” countries, the settings of this present day we are going through, with the largest flow of immigration ever witnessed since World War II.
The shots taken by the artist with his mobile phone are joined by those involving a team of almost 200, in an extremely simple, direct kind of shooting; lovers of virtuoso camera work may turn up their noses, but we should never forget the fact that this film is an artwork, the project of a visual artist who uses the “film” as a medium.
A film that is very “tough” on the viewer, since it finally manages to narrate the phenomenon through a real, human perspective.
Human Flow is not documentary journalism, and those expecting a feature-length lecture like those of Michael Moore, conveying a precise idea or political theory, will be disappointed. It is the gaze of the artist – in this case one of the world’s most important and successful ones – that puts things into focus, conveying a clear, direct, evident vision.
The film is composed of multiple “encounters” of individuals, which like the marvelous aerial shots become part of single, particular realities, and then also of an inexorable worldwide phenomenon that has driven over 65 million people (UNHCR data) to migrate, forced to leave their homes to escape from famine, climate change and war.
The artistic gaze of Ai Weiwei makes the difference, and the clear intent is to captivate viewers and make them identify with what they see, an intent pursued with tools seldom utilized in normal narration of current events, often laden with an almost “pornographic” perspective: the force of simplicity and evidence.
The director, with the clear intent of stripping away the political message conveyed by the work, arrives by paradox at its amplification.
Ai Weiwei does not suggest, or ever mention, any theory or solution for the condition of human migration. Instead – and this is the film’s true force – he urges viewers to create a path of identification, in which the artistic clarity and simplicity intrinsically force us to gain awareness of the normality of human migration in pursuit of salvation and justice, and of the folly of trying to set limits or borders.
As Ai Weiwei says, “everything is art, everything is politics.”
What’s Dry in this movie:
– The sound of the wind.
– Encounters of faces, voices, people.
– The final scene, an enormous installation by the artist.