On Thursday, Jan. 11, one can experience a film that one will likely never forget when “Human Flow” screens at Lincoln Theater in Damariscotta for two shows only, at 2 and 7 p.m.
Imagine this: When danger comes, you and your family jettison your lives in mid-sentence, leaving behind a bombed-out home and repression at your heels. You pour all your precious savings into a passage of weeks or months — over mountains, across deserts — to jump into a flimsy rubber raft, daring to defy the ocean’s perils, chasing an unwritten future.
Or you wait in suspense, journey blocked, at a closed border, in an improvised camp, fighting to never allow the barbed wire to pierce your hope.
Perhaps you escape catastrophe, only to deliver yourself to a city you’ve never even imagined, to new streets crackling with fears and furies that make no sense, and even still, you are driven by the most basic human optimism, to live your life no matter what it takes.
These are not fictional situations. These are the real human faces — each lined and luminous with stories of love and courage and the urgent battle for survival — of a planet on the move, a planet in the midst of a human emergency.
Much has been said in the past few years by politicians and pundits about the millions of refugees fleeing war, hunger, and persecution. Yet, as debates rage about who and how many, security versus responsibility, putting up walls or building bridges, the vital truth of real people with real dreams and real needs caught in a labyrinth of uncertainty can get lost. The very word “refugee” can distance, can lull us into forgetting this major story of our times is not about statistics or abstract masses but about beating hearts, about lives-in-process, a stream of individual stories full of color, ecstasies, and sorrows no different from our own.
That’s why, in “Human Flow,” Chinese artist Ai Weiwei foregrounds the humanity of refugees — their quest for the things we all want: safety, shelter, peace, the opportunity to be who you are — in his powerful new work of cinema.
Ai, at once celebrated, persecuted, and famed for an outlaw spirit that speaks directly to a world of inequality and injustice, here pushes back against the worldwide tide of fear with a defiant act of gentleness. His whole career has been about resisting borders of all kinds, about unifying art and activism. And now, with “Human Flow,” he again stretches art’s definition to include trying to change the social fabric to which his work responds.
Ai has said the crisis before us is not only the staggering number of refugees with nowhere to go right now, but the temptation to turn away in a time that asks something of each of us. So he set out on a journey of his own — a simple yet epic journey to share in the daily lives of people fleeing turmoil in every corner of the planet. The result is a cinematic experience grand in scale but deeply intimate in feel. It is a fluid intermixing of poetry with hard facts, laughter with adversity, the stark with the staggeringly beautiful.
Moving across 23 countries, Ai creates an immersion that invites the most personal exploration, one that allows each viewer to consider what it is like to live life at its most vulnerable — and to ponder what we owe to one another.
Lincoln Theater is located at 2 Theater St., Damariscotta. Tickets to “Human Flow” will be available starting one hour before showtime.