Human dignity in films and narratives

Documented: A Film by an undocumented American film (Jose Antonio Vargas) is Vargas’s story highlighting the effects of separation on an immigrant family in the United States. Vargas is a former editor with the Huffington Post. He left this position and publicly declared that he is an undocumented immigrant. There are some media that refer to Vargas as an activist, even though he is just a storyteller. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is a documentary about Ai Weiwei. This documentary premiered in 2012 and was directed by Alison Klayman. The film follows the life of Weiwei from the time he has the first interaction with Klayman after he was released from detention in 2011. Both Documented and Never Sorry highlight issues of human dignity in different settings that they are produced in.

These two works talk about respect for human dignity. The world should develop a culture of humanizing people and respecting their dignity. The films call for the political systems to change so that everybody’s opinions and views are respected by the society.

Human dignity is undermined in the films is the sense that the films highlight the manner in which human dignity is not appreciated. By not respecting immigrants or females in the society, and by locking up Weiwei, beating him up and destroying his studio, human rights is undermined thereby undermining human dignity (Simon xxix).

In Ai Weiwei, Klayman embodies human dignity. This is because since the time she met Weiwei, she was not prejudicial and did not show any discriminating tendencies against Weiwei. Through this, she was able to understand Weiwei to the extent that she developed her story in a visual manner. This is an expression of human dignity as was appreciated by Klayman. In addition, Vargas own admission that he began working on the film a few moments after coming out as undocumented shows that he wanted to share his experiences so that other people could learn from his experiences. Vargas believed that the film would help in changing the minds and hearts of people.

The texts talk of a need for change of consciousness as concerns human responsibilities and obligations. Through their personal experiences, the authors hope to ensure that there are moral attitudes that can be accepted by all cultures and that have a respect on human rights. There is a relationship between human dignity and human responsibility where everybody is expected to show unconditional respect for the rights of others. All responsibilities must be fulfilled unconditionally in order to ensure that human rights are respected.

In Documented, Vargas talks of the fears that he and other undocumented immigrants have faced. The fears have made it difficult for them even to travel. Through this, it is expected that other people will have compassion for his story and the experience of others who have found it difficult to travel to their home countries so that they can meet their families and relatives. The compassion in Never Sorry stems from the fact that Weiwei was tortured by Chinese authorities while he was in prison. The two stories highlight violation of human rights through from different perspectives (d’Hooghe 65). In the case of Never Sorry, the fact that he was tortured shows that his rights were violated while Documented shows how children have had to move to the US unaccompanied. This is a violation of the children’s rights though it is not done by authorities. The objective of the Weiwei story is for the federal authorities develop compassion for their stories. The compassion can help Washington authorities and legislators to develop transformative policies that can help legalize people like Vargas (Logan 175).

The other factor that also plays a role in the narratives is consensus. This happens because the Vargas and Weiwei cases happen due to lack of consensus between the parties and the state actors on their actions. Weiwei and Vargas think that they are acting within their rights and are doing the right thing. However, this is not the opinion of the state actors as the two individuals are arrested.

Both Documented and Never Sorry highlight the problem of expressing oneself in some instances. The main characters in both cases have found their trouble due to the fact that they have expressed themselves. Vargas was arrested shortly after exposing his undocumented status while authorities in China violate Ai Weiwei freedom of expression in Never Sorry. Both Ai Weiwei and Vargas in their own ways are participating in transformation of the society by questioning the status quo. Through this, they are calling for their audiences to demand more accountability from their governments. The freedom of expression that is highlighted in both cases goes hand in hand with silence. There are instances when being silent can help an individual go a long way. This is based on the fact that had both Weiwei and Vargas been solent, then they would have not had an experience with the authorities. However, talking out is important because it can lead to transformation of policies and programs. By Vargas talking about his undocumented status and that of other immigrants, there will be a transformation of the policies and programs that relate to immigrants.

The other element brought about in the narrative is collaboration with perpetrators. In this case, both Vargas and Weiwei cooperated with their victimizers. However, this collaboration did not yield them the results that they intended. The broader meaning of this is the illegal immigrants and the Chinese would rights are violated who are represented by Vargas and Weiwei respectively have not achieved their intended objectives by collaborating with their victimizers. Both cases demand a lot of empathy because there are massive violations of human rights. However, there is a fear among many illegal immigrants that should their status be known, then they will be arrested as is required by law. This has meant that the illegal immigrants stay put in their locations and avoid unnecessary travel so that they do not expose themselves. This is a form of non-cooperation in the sense that the illegal immigrants do not want to expose their identity. For example, as a follow up to the Vargas case, immediately after his release, the spokesperson for the advocacy group that he formed did not want to release details about his whereabouts.

Vargas and Weiwei have therefore shared their experiences so that other rights defenders can come to their aid. The rights defenders are in different fronts including policymakers, legislators and non-government actors including human rights activists. Vargas and other illegal immigrants and Weiwei and other people whose rights are violated need to collaborate with rights defenders. This will ensure that their rights as illegal immigrants and their status as humans is respected and appreciated.

The other factor in the narrative is the factor of having access to information. The question of illegal immigrants to the US exists due to some people ignoring to process the right documents with which they can use to settle in the United States. However, there are other people who do not have information and education on the right documents that they can sue to settle in the US. Such information is freely available online but due to issues of poverty and poor internet penetration in some countries, they do not have access to such information. This has resulted in the influx of immigrants in the US. In addition, there are some uneducated people who even allow small unaccompanied children to move to the US. Such people do not clearly understand the dangers that they are exposing their children to. For the case of Never Sorry, Weiwei was not allowed to provide the information that he exposed to the public. The Chinese authorities considered this a violation of the requirements. Due to the activism highlighted in the narrative, the Weiwei story cannot be considered as his story. He is rising up against a system of censorship and a blatant violation of human rights to information that is being perpetuated by Chinese authorities.

The two narratives also bring about the other element of understanding of and empathy with people with different values and way of life. For the first narrative, the authorities in Vargas case did not clearly understand him and the reasons why he and other illegal immigrants exist in the United States. The authorities in compliance with the law arrested him after he declared his undocumented status (Wan 166). However, since his release, not much has been done to ensure that Vargas and the likes are understood. For the Weiwei case, the authorities did not take time to understand him. In this digital age, there are many ways in which people can be informed. However, some Chinese authorities have not considered this and are still restricting the amount of information that is available to the public. This case shows that the authorities do not have an understanding of the values and ways of life of many people (Logan 175).

The narratives also highlight the issues of relationship between an individual and the society. A human being is a social animal who has a desire to associate with other people so as to enjoy the benefits of common life. However, these benefits are not available in equal measures in all societies. The society provides a good platform for the development of human personality. A varied and rich social life provides an individual with an opportunity to realize his or her potential. The US has always been considered as a land of opportunities. The diverse culture and the relatively stable economy have made many people to move to the US for opportunities to realize their dreams. Immigrants like Vargas and others have moved to the US so that they can insure themselves against some of the odds of human life. The objective of the society is to promote a happy life for the indispensable members of the society. Therefore, an individual and the society are bound by a harmonious and intimate relationship where there are few conflicts between the society and the individual.

There is also a relationship between an individual and the state. The state exists to protect the rights of individuals while individuals are expected to follow the laid down rules and regulations as required by the state and its agencies. From this narrative, Vargas and other immigrants have not followed the requirements of the state because they have not obtained the necessary documentation to stay in the United States. For the other case of Weiwei, the state did not meet its end of the bargain because state agencies tortured Weiwei and even after this, they destroyed his property. This is against the social contract that the citizens have with the state that the state will protect their rights and property. This means that both the individual and the society have a responsibility for one another. The state should create a conducive environment for the individual to achieve his dream.

In conclusion, Vargas documented and Weiwei’s Never Sorry are two narratives that highlight the calls for respect for human rights and dignity. The narratives are set in different environments but help in bringing out common themes of violation of human rights, compassion, consensus, collaboration with victimizers and rights defenders among other themes. The narratives also highlight the important aspect of relationship between an individual and the society and the relationship between the individual and the state. It is important that the questions raised by the narratives be picked up by authorities so that better regulations are created to ensure that the society is more orderly.


Works Cited

Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry. 2014. 08 December 2014 <>.

d’Hooghe, Ingrid. China’s Public Diplomacy. New York: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2014.


Logan, Robert K. Understanding New Media: Extending Marshall McLuhan. New York: Peter

Lang, 2010. Print.

Simon, Karla W. Civil Society in China: The Legal Framework from Ancient Times to the “New

Reform Era”. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.

Wan, Amy J. Producing Good Citizens: Literacy Training in Anxious Times. Pittsburgh :

University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014. Print.