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Ai Weiwei is a controversial multi-discipline Chinese artist and activist who has spoken openly against violations of human rights and political corruption, much to the disapproval of his government. As director of the new documentary, Human Flow, he shines a damning light on all governments with regard to the mistreatment of refugees.

It is a beautifully shot film, with breath-taking landscape panoramas and unnerving personal close-ups – which at times can feel uncomfortably voyeuristic.

What truly startles are the statistics, given as data on screen and revealed more cogently via long-shots of rows upon rows of make-shift tents; endless moving queues; entire towns reduced to concrete shells with remnants of personal effects to prove they were once homes; and a mountainous pile of life jackets discarded by thousands of refugees fleeing by boat.

What Ai manages to do extremely well is give balanced perspective by alternating wide sweeping views that give the epic scope of the problem, with intimate portraits that remind the viewer that this is about real people. There are moments of humour and moments of heartache but few moments of hope – perhaps that will come with response to this film.

★★★★

Reviewed by Rita Bratovich