Accessibility links

Ai Weiwei Films in Gaza for Refugee Documentary

  • Zlatica Hoke

Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei has begun interviewing refugees in Gaza for his documentary on the world refugee crisis. A new report says a record number of people - nearly 41 million - are internally displaced as a result of conflict or natural disaster. As part of his project, Ai has been visiting migrants in Europe and in the Middle East, staging events to draw attention to their plight.

During a visit to Gaza this week, Ai Weiwei interviewed Palestinians displaced by the 2014 war.

"As we all know, Palestinians have among the longest history with huge population of refugees. In Gaza today, it is in such a condition which we are very concerned [about] and we had to come here and try to integrate [Palestinians] into our film," said Ai.

Ai Weiwei also visited a Gaza City suburb that was heavily bombed by Israel two years ago in retaliation for rocket attacks from the Palestinian strip. He also went to a border crossing with Egypt at Rafah, which has been mostly closed for the past three years.

"The condition here is unbelievable. Gaza is really suffering from this isolation and blockade from all over, and the living condition and the whole situation, the rights to move, all those have been forbidden. I think it’s really a crisis," he said.

Ai Weiwei, whose iconic Beijing Stadium known as the "Bird's Nest" caught the world's attention during the 2008 Summer Olympics, was under house arrest in China for several years until 2015. He has spent recent months in Europe campaigning on behalf of refugees and migrants.

"I can see how Europe has… not acted as a society which can offer this very essential help or sympathy for those unfortunate people. And which is really a test for our humanity and our human rights condition," he said.

In January, Ai Weiwei cut short an exhibit in Copenhagen to protest a controversial bill allowing authorities to seize valuables from asylum seekers to help support their upkeep. Last month, he delivered a white piano to a muddy makeshift camp on the Greek-Macedonian border so one of the migrants could play for the crowd stuck there.

The dissident artist says his crews have thus far filmed more than 600 hours of interviews with migrants, politicians, priests and non-governmental groups involved in the crisis. The film is scheduled to come out next year.