Documentary focuses on the ‘Human Flow’ of global refugees |

Documentary focuses on the ‘Human Flow’ of global refugees

Syrians fleeing civil war are one of the groups artist and filmmaker Ai Weiwei documented in “Human Flow.” The Park City Institute will present a free screening of the film on Sunday at the Eccles Cente for the Performing Arts. The screening was made possible by a donation from elissa May Metzler, founder and curator of Flow Artspace.
Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Park City Institute and Melissa Metzer will present a free screening of Ai Weiwei’s 2017 documentary “Human Flow” at 12:15 p.m. on Sunday, April 29, at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd. For information, visit

There are more than 65.6 million people around the world who have been displaced from their homes, according to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and Melissa May Metzler, founder and curator of Flow Artspace, wants Park City residents to learn more.

So she set up a free screening of Ai Weiwei’s 2017 documentary “Human Flow” for 12:15 p.m. on Sunday, April 29, at the Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, 1750 Kearns Blvd.

“Human Flow” examines the world’s refugee crisis, and it had an impact on Metzler, who first saw the film on an airplane a few months ago.

She couldn’t get the images out of her mind, so she went to the film’s website, to learn more.

“It’s unbearable if you, just for one moment, think about someone you love in those situations…” Melissa May Metzler, founder and curator of Flow Artspace

“I found out they were going to screen it in as many places as possible around the United States on April 29,” Metzler said. “I also noticed the screenings would be followed by a live Q&A with filmmaker Ai Weiwei.”

So Metzler, who also works at J GO Gallery, approached Moe Hickey, the managing director of the Park City Institute and told him that she would pay the screening fee so the nonprofit could show the film at the Eccles Center.

“I think we need to get as many people in to see this film as possible,” she said. “It’s a shocking documentary. You see the lives people are forced to live because of no fault of their own.”

Many of the refugees in the film have been displaced because of war — the case in Syria — and gang violence and poverty — which are the reasons many people are fleeing nort from Central America.

“They were living lives that were completely normal like ours and, all of sudden, something happened and these masses of people are forced from their homes,” Metzler said. “I think that so many of us really don’t know what is happening there. We hear things here and there on the news and catch snippets, but it’s hard to imagine what is going on until you see the film.”

“Human Flow” puts viewers in a situation where they have to take notice, she said.

“It’s unbearable if you, just for one moment, think about someone you love in those situations,” Metzler said. “Many of these places where they are forced to live aren’t sanitary and don’t have clean water. Many of the refugees are exposed to the elements for days on end. It’s just unbelievable.”

Weiwei and his film crew followed some of these refugees and documented their plight, like in “The Jungle” tent city outside of Calais, France.

“It’s upsetting, because you see the conditions they are forced to live in,” Metzler said. “But because Ai Weiwei is an incredible visual artist, he finds a way to tell the story without it becoming so overwhelming.”

Metzler cried the first time she saw the film.

“There were a few moments that were difficult for me to see,” she said. “It was an emotional experience, but also an informative experience. And it showed me how big the global refugee crisis is.”

The documentary also reveals some of the complexities that surface after countries, such as Germany, help refugees.

According to various news reports, many of the Syrian refugees have been granted temporary protection.

“Germany has actually taken the lead to welcome Syrian refugees into the country, and the film not only address the difficulties the refugees face in creating a new life, but also shows how difficult it is for the country to accommodate the masses,” Metzler said. “When you see the film, you realize there is so much to be learned and so much to be done because this is such a complex situation.”

Thankfully, the documentary does give audiences options of how to help, according to Metzler.

“Towards the end of the film, the audience is introduced to organizations that can help these refugees, so you’re not left with all of this information and no way to do something,” she said.

Metzler is also interested to hear what Weiwei will say during the Q&A.

“There may be some new developments that may have come about since he released his film last year,” she said.

People can help these refugees just by attending the film.

Admission is $10, and the money will go to the International Rescue Committee, a global nonprofit that, according to its mission, ”responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future.”

“I realize this is a heavy topic, but I hope people will come see the film,” Metzler said.

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