Thursday, 1 March 2018

Human Flow

Tuesday’s 1.30 screening of Human Flow at The Courtyard, alas the last of three, was all but sold out. Remarkable, for a 2hr 20 min doc that can at times feel unrelenting. But entirely appropriate. We all know, or think we know, the story - but the scale of it - 65 million displaced people across the globe - alone justifies the length of the movie. Ai Wei Wei’s documentary, however, is far more than an exhausting catalogue of suffering. Duncan Wardlaw’s BFF notes and multiple laudatory reviews make that very clear. But what’s less noticed is the scale of the effort that both Ai Wei Wei and his crew - over 200 people worldwide, a dozen of them, including Ai himself, cinematographers, sixteen additional cinematographers, thirteen drones and one steadicam operator. An extraordinary but wholly justified camera department that produced some stunning results - including two aerial shots that alone are worth the price of admission.

Ai Wei Wei’s mobile phone footage features throughout, as does Ai Wei Wei, cutting hair, swapping passports, respecting, investigating, collaborating, witnessing. The editing of 1,000 hours of footage had at its helm Niels Pagh Andersen, best known for Joshua Oppenheimer’s Academy Award nominated documentaries about Indonesia, The Act of Killing and The Look Of Silence. Anyone who wants more should go to the comprehensive press kit.
The Courtyard projection team at work

Even if you stuck around for the credits, there’s plenty more there, but what it won’t have is a big shout out to Simon Nicholls and the projection crew at The Courtyard. Pin sharp pix, beautiful sound - they produce excellent results day in, day out. Not easy. Anyone spurred to action by Human Flow found People In Motion at the door with flyers about their work with refugees. In a country whose proud record includes the Kindertransport, they, and Ai Wei Wei’s film, are more than deserving of our support.

Stephen Hopkins

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