A hush fell over the crowd as the lights dimmed. Every audience member’s eyes were glued to the front of the room, as if locked in a trance. As images of innocent families enduring immense suffering filled the screen, raw emotion was present on every viewer’s captivated face.
On Oct. 25 from 6 to 9 p.m. in MAN 105 of Brookdale Community College, students and residents of Monmouth County gathered to watch “Human Flow,” an emotional and informative film depicting the greatest human displacement since World War II. In the documentary, filmmaker Ai Weiwei travels for one year through 23 countries to capture diverse yet urgent stories of innocent people forced to leave their homes.
Viewers received insight into refugees’ physical and mental struggles as they witnessed them desperately trying to escape famine, poverty, climate change and war. Scenes depicting police brutality, sick and injured individuals, dying children and blood curdling screams deeply affected the audience. Almost in tears, one viewer claimed the film was “two hours of full misery,” due to the vivid imagery of human mistreatment.
“[The film] was very impactful because I went through that,” a young man in the front row courageously spoke up, reflecting on his own experience as a refugee. He was especially affected by a scene where a young boy was promising his brother that he would never leave him, no matter how bad things got. The spectator explained how touching it was to see love and family prevail in the midst of disaster.
Professor Ashley Zampogna-Krug, who led the film discussion, was “stunned by the sheer resilience of human nature.” Watching the film was incredibly enlightening to her, she said, opening her eyes to humans’ unbelievable ability to persevere despite such detrimental and seemingly hopeless scenarios. In the film, one refugee explained that “if there is will, nothing is impossible.” Seeing positivity in such a treacherous environment was extremely inspiring and encouraging, audience members said.
However, the film proved that humanity did not necessarily favor people. Debbie Mura, a journalism professor from Toms River, recalled a scene where refugees chose to feed stray dogs and horses rather than give the food to the starving people. “[This] shows how much we care about animals and not human beings,” she said.
Despite the film’s success in stimulating intense emotions among viewers, the audience found fault in certain production qualities. “From a cinema point of view,” one said, “it was very difficult to follow, which made it lose some of its impact.” She criticized the subtitles for being too small and fast, preventing her from being able to understand certain scenes, especially ones spoken in foreign languages. Nodding her head along in agreement, another viewer added that the film was “a little long on a production note.”
While response of the film consisted of mixed opinions, one belief remained the same. Every audience member was incredibly touched, as the film triggered emotions of sadness and sympathy for the suffering refugees. Voicing the thoughts of every person in the room, one man said, “watching this was an eye opener to appreciate all you that have.”