Artist, activist, and director Ai Weiwei spoke to Filmmaker Magazine about his epic documentary which takes on the global refugee crisis. Ai spoke of the challenges in making the film, and how he began to tackle such a multi-dimensional issues, “The topic itself requires a lot of research to get to know what you are talking about. I dropped in from almost ground zero. The story is so complex: in the reality but in the history also. Human history is the history of immigration, from the beginning until probably to the end. As humans, we will never settle. The more intelligent we become, the more motivated we become.

To understand the topic, it still takes time. You have to discover some kind of character in the language, which can illustrate your ideas. And I realize you can only learn it by doing it, to make a film watchable rather than to make a historical type of film, to still have human touch.

I watch everyday at least 20 to 100 news stories related to refugees for myself, to get familiar. I have to know the situation better than most people. I have to interview hundreds of people. I have to go to those camps to meet those people in their tents to see: what is the real situation?

It’s so primitive. But film is about telling, to view the necessary connection between people. It’s challenging. If I’m an artist and I do an artwork or sculpture, it can be just a statement and can also be [a] statement [just] for me. But with film you are inviting people to sit; you want them to sit down and see how many minutes they can still sit there. Ten minutes? One hour? You are wasting people’s time, basically. It’s quite crude actually. But I think any film is made very crudely; it’s testing our suffering ability.”