Ai Weiwei brings an artist’s eye and a strong social conscience to his broad report on the heartbreaking refugee crisis that is a major problem in the world today. It is at once a call to action and an expression of sympathy for the plight of the millions of people in need of safety and a new life.

Known for his art and his dissident political situation in China (he now lives in Germany), Ai Weiwei roams the world with a huge crew to record the plight of those fleeing for a better life, and sometimes for life itself, given the violence they often face in their home countries.

We get close-ups of individuals who make up the “human flow” of the title. We see the dangers, such as those who arrive at destinations jammed into over-packed boats.

The film is sometimes disjointed as it flips back and forth between locations, and it probably could be condensed. However, the subject matter is so powerful and the problems so vast that one might feel over-privileged to seriously complain for having to sit a bit longer.

Besides, there are visual rewards. The director’s artistic vision is at times especially evident and we get a sensory look as well an informative one. But the main thrust of the film is to examine crisis areas, and one comes away with the awareness of how globally vast the emergencies are and the urgency with which a society with a conscience needs to address them.

The film is especially pertinent in the era of Trump, who moves in the opposite direction and appeals to the worst instincts of people to rev up hostility toward immigrants. “Human Flow” deserves to be widely seen and taken to heart. An Amazon release. Reviewed October 13, 2017.

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