Ai Wei Wei : Human Flow

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Requirements: • Length: 2-3 pages • Format: typed in standard 12-point font and double-spaced • Support: Discuss at least 1 specific scene or image and incorporate at least 1 quotation from Ai Weiwei’s film, Human Flow. Quotations can include words spoken in the film, information shown on-screen, or a literary quotation used in the film. Remember to use correct parenthetical in-text citations when quoting or paraphrasing. • Using MLA or APA style, include at the end of your CR a correctly formatted full citation for any text you use, including the film. You may cite it as a film/DVD, or as a streaming video from the library database (any of those formats are acceptable). • Review the policy on academic integrity. Critical responses containing plagiarized material will not receive credit. Instructions: Famous walls in history…begin as defensive fortifications but come to serve ideological ends. The Great Wall of China, an enormous construction project extending over many centuries, was conceived by Emperor Qin Shi Huang in the third century B.C. as a way of keeping barbarian nomads out of the Chinese Empire. Although the Great Wall was a military boondoggle, it functioned as a psychological barrier that kept Chinese civilization isolated from foreign influences and the modernizing world. The wall kept China in the dark ages and encouraged its government to exert strong control over its citizens. Hadrian’s Wall, built by the Roman invaders of Britain and dating from 122 CE, ran from coast to coast for a length of 73 miles. Although it is commonly thought that the wall marked the boundary line between the Roman Empire in Britain and what the Romans considered to be barbaric Scotland inhabited by face-painted Picts, historians argue that no one really knows the true motivation behind its construction. Many scholars question its military effectiveness, arguing that, like the Great Wall of China, this physical barrier served to reinforce a conceptual divide between what was considered civilized and non-civilized. Rather than an effective military barrier, the wall became an essential part of the ideology of empire, a unifying symbol through which people imagine and assert their ascendancy. … Do the strict boundaries we invent to circumscribe our identities provide comfort or do they divide us — that is, exaggerate the differences between us? … Walls aren’t natural. — Ivy Schweitzer, “Who Doesn’t Love a Wall?” In “Who Doesn’t Love a Wall?”, scholar Ivy Schweitzer contextualizes Trump’s promised expansion of the Mexico/U.S. barrier within a long history of walls and barriers. Walls and borders, she argues, can be read as fictional: borders are invented by nations and have shifted throughout history; famous walls have been breached or torn down. Walls and borders may exist as physical barriers but what they enforce is ultimately ideological and social. 2 In Ai Weiwei’s documentary film, Human Flow, refugees cross the open sea, cross borders, are blocked from crossing borders, get sent back across borders. They’re shown both moving and forced to remain in the same place indefinitely. They walk or are carried by boat or raft in open spaces; they are detained and incarcerated behind walls, bars, and fences. Write a substantive response to Human Flow that discusses walls and borders in our current era of accelerating migration and increasing barriers. Consider the following questions: What fictions do the borders and walls shown in the film convey? What does the raising of walls throughout history say about the desire for keeping others out (and “us” in)? What does the repeated failure and tearing down of walls say about the desire to overcome these barriers? In Human Flow, which human tendency is more powerful? To apply these questions to Human Flow, discuss what you found most effective or striking about the film’s portrayal of refugees’ lives across the world. Focus on one or two scenes and identify them accurately. Be as concrete as you can in describing their images, action, and words. Some possibilities: you might discuss a specific group of people depicted in the film. You might discuss a specific example of cinematography (camera work, lighting, movement, images, editing, etc.); an interview; the presence of the filmmaker, Ai, in the film; the use of quotations and headlines; or the use of sound and music. Rather than answering all of the questions above in a list, use them as a springboard to craft a compelling critical response that doesn’t settle for easy answers. Extra credit: Write about beauty in the film, perhaps connecting it to the depiction of walls and barriers and/or discussing material objects that become aesthetic elements in the film.

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