Campus commentary — Human Flow by Ai Weiwei

This documentary moved me. The simple, raw images Ai Weiwei and his team were able to capture brought tears to my eyes. Seeing people having to risk their lives to get to a better one and not being accepted past a certain point was disheartening. Knowing they’d left everything behind, sometimes including their own family, and could not attain their goal made me feel empty. Empty because I couldn’t help and my government truly wasn’t helping. It seemed outrageous that Europe signed a deal with Turkey that purposely went against the very treaty they had signed back in 1951: the refugee convention. This convention had helped millions of Europeans find new homes after WWII, but now that it was Europe’s turn to help people out, they decided to close their borders and let people live in misery. This sad truth was very well portrayed throughout the documentary, maybe even too well. 

They were points throughout the film that I had to look away from the screen, or at least I felt that I had to. It was not because of excessive blood showing or any huge amount of violence, but because of the close-ups Ai Weiwei did on certain refugees. The camera would simply be fixed on a person’s face and for 10-15 seconds, that is all we could see. Making eye contact with the refugees was truly hard for me because I felt ashamed. Ashamed that I was living a comfortable life, dare I say a lavish one, while these people had to surmount unimaginable amounts of pain. I had the luxury of looking without doing and I could not bear that weight. It reminded of what Sontag said in “Regarding the Pain of Others” and I did not want to be a simple onlooker. In retrospect, I do realize that these images are pushing me to want to do more. So, already being part of Amnesty here on campus, I am looking forward to even more events and even maybe organizing one someday.

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