Chinese artist Ai Weiwei first began work on his powerful refugee documentary using his smartphone camera, until he was joined by a German producer. “Human Flow” is now among 15 contenders for Best Documentary at the Oscars.
Filmed over a year, armed with drones, his iPhone, and about 200 crew members, Weiwei visited more than 40 refugee camps in 23 countries to make his first feature-length film, which he hoped would spur people to help refugees.
Now the film has been selected from among 170 documentaries for the 15-strong Oscars shortlist. Five films will end up receiving a nomination on January 23, 2018, before the Oscars are awarded on March 4.
Among the other contenders are “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” a 2017 follow-up to the 2006 climate documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” that was honoured with an Academy Award in 2007. Another favourite is the documentary “Jane” about gorilla researcher Jane Goodall.
German producer Heine Deckert participated in the production of Weiwei’s documentary, for which the makers travelled to refugee camps in Greece, France, Kenya, Lebanon, and Gaza, with some scenes shot on the borders between the US and Mexico, as well as Serbia and Hungary.
Wei Wei, who was once jailed in China and has lived in Berlin since 2015, said he wanted the film to make people see refugees in a different light as they are victims of man-made problems.
In this light, the artist is critical of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, saying at the December release of Human Flow in the UK that Brexit is a backward step that will make the country more isolated.
“I think it is backward in terms of opening up globalisation and will not do Britain any good but rather [it will] become more conservative and more exclusive,” Weiwei told Reuters at the film’s 5 December launch in London.