Human Flow – A Film by Ai WeiWei


Fig. 1 Human Flow by Ai Weiwei (2017)

When I think about reportage illustration, this would be the ultimate goal – to document with compassion and understanding a story for human beings who need a stronger, louder voice so that they can be heard.

My expectation for this film was high, I am an admirer of Ai WeiWei, his provocative work and voice for the persecuted. I was not disappointed, this film is one of the strongest documentaries I have seen in a very long time, it is upsetting and uncomfortable to watch in the comfort of a warm cinema to see footage of lines and lines of desperate people walk along roads, across fields and mountains seeking refuge away from their homeland. The numbers are staggering to see in a physical sense when this film was made during 2015 and 2016. Our time.

As an exile himself Ai WeiWei can identify with displaced people and it is quite clear in his film ‘Human Flow’, the connection he makes with the people he engages with. Very often through-out no words are necessary, there is a clear understanding and empathy for their plight, even though language could be an obstacle. The use of drone footage is the most effective use of drones I have seen in any film. Ai WeiWei creates large collections in his art installations, the drone footage is an extension of this. The footage is not used as a tool to display beautiful vistas, but is used to emphasise the size with full impact, the refugee camps hundreds of thousands of people are waiting in. Waiting not living.

As an illustrator looking through the eyes of an artist (Ai WeiWei) making a film instead of a filmmaker, there are so many pictures I see that would be very worthy subjects for reportage. To get in close, to draw these peoples stories would be emotionally difficult and tremendously rewarding. I need to brush up on my skills, this film has given me a lot more drive and inspiration to pursue the genre of reportage illustration.


Human Flow a film by Ai Wei Wei (2017) Retrieved from

Ai Wei Wei, artist. Retrieved from


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