Making the film didn’t start with consciously saying, “We are making a film.” We just wanted to document and record our own studies and research [on global migration]. Then the footage started getting bigger and bigger. We covered more than 23 nations, interviewed 600 people. So when we were editing Human Flow, we had to find a structure, which was basically an introduction to the global refugee condition. It doesn’t go deep, and it doesn’t offer any kind of argument or solution; it’s very much like a drone view, [an overhead] look at what’s going on.
And it’s for my own study and curiosity. I was in China for most of my life, and then spent 12 years in the US, but otherwise I almost never traveled, even once. So Human Flow is clearly from one artist from China, trying to approach this huge, complicated issue.
We’ve always seen our film as something you finish with some kind of regret. Clearly, the story shows the refugees’ own faith and emotions, their own language. Who they are. And so we decide to edit another film, using the footage, and we called it The Rest. There’s no expert, no NGOs, no one who speaks politically, other than the people who experience [the crisis]. They’re stuck.