Ai WeiWei: Rohingya

Almost a million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar live in the biggest refugee camp in the world, Cox Bazaar in Bangla Desh… Ai WeiWei has made a film from the camp. Danish editors Niels Pagh Andersen and Charlotte Munch Bengtsen watched, what footage Chinese camerapersons came back with and made what the director wished the film to be:

A slow, quiet meditative film with long sequences, no close ups (almost) but panoramic images and a recreation of sound as the sound that they had to work with came from the camera. Danish Henrik Gugge Garnov was the one who helped with that.

I got this information from what I would call a master’s class after the screening of the film in the Danish Cinemateket two days ago. Niels Pagh Andersen entertained the audience with his pedagogical skills answering questions from the audience that was, like me, impressed by the film, which is simply beautiful allowing or I would prefer to say inviting us to go ”into” the well composed images, study and learn above the life of refugees, who survive in the poor society they have formed with schools, churches, crafts, funerals, everyday activities like cooking, eating, washing the dishes, washing clothes in water that are taken up from underground, playing football.

In mostly stunning images you watch the human beings in the camp doing something– you study and think about their situation compared to your own, and you wonder what will be of the many children in the film, when they grow up. Are they to stay here, do they have a chance to leave the poverty, settle and build a decent life for themselves and their family? You see the energy of the children, when they play with or without a football, or when they go to get water for the family – and you think they will make it. Hope?

Editor Niels Pagh Andersen, called ”the skinny romantic” by Ai Weiwei, and his co-editor let us leave the film full of the atmosphere the film establishes so well. Far from reportage, far from pouring information towards the spectator, it’s a film that finds humanity in the life of refugees. 

Signed by a refugee as he is himself, Ai WeiWei. 

2021, 122 mins.  

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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