Carnegie Mellon University
March 19, 2021

Weiwei Continues Focus on Refugees in New Film “The Rest”

Ai Weiwei continues his work with a human-interest story on migration and the struggles that come with leaving home for a better future

The CMU International Film Festival announced that the film “The Rest” will be available for viewing starting March 20. From famed Chinese director and artist Ai Weiwei, “The Rest” highlights the long road for thousands of refugees fleeing countries ravaged by conflict. Similar to his widely acclaimed 2017 film, “Human Flow,” “The Rest” focuses intimately on the upheavals experienced by people making their way to Europe from countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and various African countries. Told from the perspective of the migrants, “The Rest” provides insight into the stress of displacement at a time when increasingly overburdened facilities and anti-immigrant sentiment are on the rise. With America at a crossroads, with a fresh administration promising a new approach to immigration and foreign relations, this film refocuses the debate over policy on the people at the heart of the matter.

“We’ve always seen our film as something you finish with some kind of regret,” said Weiwei in an interview with Vox Media. “Clearly the story shows the refugees’ own faith and emotions, their own language. . . no expert, no NGO, simply no one other than the people who are experiencing [the crisis] themselves — have the right to speak for them. They’re the ones who are stuck.” 

Director Weiwei is renowned for making strong aesthetic statements that address pressing issues in the world today. He is considered the greatest Chinese artist of his generation. Using a wide range of media, from architecture and installations to social media and documentaries, he constantly experiments with new ways of encouraging audiences to examine society and its values. Born in Beijing in 1957, he left China in 2015 following tensions with the government. After a stay in Germany, he is now based in the U.K. His recent exhibitions include “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” with the Public Art Fund in New York City. Weiwei has won numerous artistic and humanitarian awards, such as the Skowhegan Medal, the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent and Amnesty International's Ambassador of Conscience Award.

The CMU film festival continues to screen films by some of the best-known directors working in the global market, all of whom have decades-long, prize-winning careers; Ken Loach, Xiaoshuai Wang, Jan Komasa, Jeremiah Mosese and now Ai Weiwei with “The Rest”.

Viewing for “The Rest” will be from March 20 to 26 with registration starting on March 18. The first 30 people to register with the promo code CMUIFF will be able to watch for free. Tickets afterwards will be $5. There will be a free live discussion on March 25 at 6 p.m. (EST) but will require registration to attend.

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Register for the live discussion

This event is presented in conjunction with the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University and sponsored by The Doc Salon, JFCS Refugee & Immigrant Services, the Humanities Scholars Program and CMU's Graduate Student Assembly.

Visit CMU IFF for additional information and imagery.


The Carnegie Mellon International “Faces” Film Festival was created in 2006 and is a project of the Humanities Center at CMU. The festival prides itself on being the only international film festival organized and run by university students from across Pittsburgh. Films showcased focus on current and global social issues that create meaningful dialogue throughout the broader Pittsburgh community.