Global refugee crisis solution ‘up to all of us’, says filmmaker Ai Weiwei

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The Venice film festival has just ended, and one of the most challenging movies was the documentary Human Flow by Chinese artist and activist Ai Wei Wei about the global refugee crisis.  Video: Al Jazeera

By Charlie Angela in Venice

“Two people drowned at sea. I wish they were still with us,” a middle-aged man says, his voice breaking.

“They appear in my dreams at night. I see them in my sleep and they tell me what to do. What am I supposed to do?” he asks, breaking down in tears.

This is just one of the many powerful scenes captured in Human Flow, the new documentary by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei exploring the global refugee crisis.

VIEW MORE: Ai Weiwei’s photos from Lesbos capture refugee life

The film is one of the most talked-about entries in this year’s Venice Film Festival, and was one of the top contenders for its top prize, the Golden Lion.

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It might have missed out on the main prize – which went to an American romantic fantasy The Shape of Water about a cleaning lady who falls in love with an aquatic creature – but Human Flow has still had a dramatic impact on global thinking about refugees.

Shot in more than 40 refugee camps across 23 countries, the documentary offers a fresh look at the refugee crisis from Europe and Asia to Africa, peppered with poetry, heartbreaking stories and dramatic aerial footage shot mostly with drones.

Speaking at the festival, Ai said a solution to the crisis could easily be reached once people realise that the refugee problem is “about all of us”.

“It takes individuals to act, to be involved, to push the politicians, to create the right discussion,” he said.

As many as 70 countries have placed walls to stem the flow of refugees. In an interview with the Huffington WorldPost, filmmaker Ai said that he planned to screen his documentary to legislators involved in the refugee policies.

“My art is a personal effort to help viewers understand, through experiences and emotions, another person or another condition,” he said.

WATCH MORE: Drifting – art, awareness and the refugee crisis

Lee Marshall, a critic for Screen Daily, said he was impressed by the way Ai had approached his role in the film.

“One nice thing about it, for me, is that he does appear in the film but very much as a guy who is just hanging out with refugees,” Marshall told Al Jazeera, “rather than going in … and being very pushy and trying through irony or provocation to get his agenda through”.

A major artist of our times, Ai is renowned for his activism.

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