'Just one step more…' Human Flow Review

Posted 8 February 2018

In his first feature-length documentary, Chinese Director and German resident, Ai Weiwei, with the help of a 200-strong crew, presents Human Flow, a visual delight and visceral challenge on the plight of the more than 65 million people around the world who have been forced from their homes to escape famine, climate change and war; 65 million people currently ebbing and flowing on a tide statelessness.

With such sorry tales of misery and desperation, it would have been easy for the film to go for the truly shocking, with gruesome imagery and sickening tales of brutalisation, death and despair. Instead, Ai delivers a visually stunning film that makes exceptionally intelligent use of a number of cinematic motifs to show both the incredible scale of this global problem (it was shot in 23 countries) in terms of the numbers of people involved, and at the same time, the very tiny human parts that make up this roaming ant colony, wandering relentlessly in search of somewhere to call home.

Hundreds of people are interviewed, and in every case Ai ensures that the person is centrally placed, with sufficient space either side of them to remind the viewer of their isolation in vastness – there are no boundaries, limits or borders when you are stateless; except those imposed by the refugee camp and authorities that do not want you in their countries.

It is hard to comprehend that the average, yes average, refugee will spend 24 years homeless and stateless – but that is what Ai makes an inescapable truth when he shows us the overcrowded, ramshackle mazes that are refugee camps, some that have been in place almost since the end of World War Two.

The realities of what it means to give up your home, your country and all but your life to escape war, famine and persecution are laid bare before us with tender touches that still carry the impact and influence of a report from the front-line.

I found this film so engrossing that I went to see it twice in one week. I believe it, like I Daniel Blake, should be seen by everyone. It should be on the curriculum of every school in the land. It has so much to say about the state of the human race from a political and economic perspective. It also very strongly makes the case that art can exist in a documentary film and still exert a powerful response in the viewer; a response that elicits a desire for change.

I was so moved by the humanity and sadness of this film that it stirred to put pen to paper. The following is a poem I wrote in response to Human Flow, I hope you enjoy it; whether you do or don’t, please seek out this film.  

……………………………

One step more

Just one step more….

Just one step more….

Just one step more to take me away from the hate

From the bombing, the killing, the starvation and pain

Where the home that we built, with our hands, with our sweat and our blood, is a dream lay slain

Just one step more….

Just one step more….

Just one step more to take me closer to the woods

Where my daughter gets used like a whore –

But without payment, or towels or a door, to close in her mind, so her memories go blind

Just one step more….

Just one step more….

Just one step more to take me closer to a country

To a land that is not mine nor my father’s

Where for an average of 26 years I’ll not be at home, nor in haven, nor safe – or be free

Just one step more….

Just one step more….

Just one step more to inch me closer to that shore

Where the sea gives up its bloated cargo of fruits, those seeds of hope drowned with NO hope

You know, the people on the other side, well, they simply couldn’t cope

Just one step more….

Just one step more….

Just one step more to refuse me being a person,

One with a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

Am I not human like you, she asks

Just one step more….

Just one step more….

Just one step more to move me nearer the mound

That mountain of life jackets left by the flowing tide, bereft of the bodies now cast adrift on new lands,

Shivering and shaking in gold and silver bands

Just one step more….

Just one step more….

Just one step more toward the promised land

With homes built like prisons and death at our heals,

Where paper birds on wire fences fly, and if we are lucky, my whole family won’t die

Just one step more….

Just one step more….

Just one step more to where I do not know

We can’t be freed like once caged tigers, we have nowhere to call home

Cruelly cursed for our own unimportance, round this globe we are sentenced to roam

Just one step more….

Just one step more….

Graham Parker

Deputy Chair, Showroom Film Discussion GroupRead more posts by Graham Parker

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