Human – Yann Arthus-Bertrand

The French director's social experiment is an ode to acceptance, love and equality.

I am one man among seven billion others. For the past 40 years, I have been photographing our planet and its human diversity, and I have the feeling that humanity is not making any progress. We can’t always manage to live together.
Why is that?
I didn’t look for an answer in statistics or analysis, but in man himself.”

These are the words of the French director Yann Arthus-Bertrand where the raw meaning of his documentary film “Human” is revealed. The documentary, released in 2015, was realized thanks to the collaboration of the Foundation Bettencourt Schueller, famous for its involvement in cultural and philanthropic projects,  and the  GoodPlanet Foundation, which is presided by Arthus-Bertrand himself and aims at raising public awareness on environmental protection.

“Human” is a collection of interviews, in more than 60 languages, gathered all over the world in a span of three years. The aim of this work is to profile humankind by finding commonality at this historic moment in which people seem to be more often looking for what divides them instead of what unites them. 

Why now?

We are in the new age of walls. Witness to the raising barriers to stop migrants, to the formation of refugee and migrant camps where, in many cases, there is a complete lack of respect for human rights, to religious conflicts or even more to the massacres of LGBT people. Humanity, it seems, is unable to find richness in diversity, but Arthus-Bertrand’s work is a reminder that this is still possible.

The movie involves characters from 60 countries with their different roots, traditions and life experiences. Men and women, children and adults answer the same questions concerning several topics about life, such as love, death, fear, war, happiness, forgiveness, migrations, homosexuality, expressing their innermost thoughts and shaking the audience conscience.

The interviewees speak in front of a black background, the same for everyone, in order to avoid personal details that could divert the spectator’s attention from the content of their words and in order to make the principle of equality triumph among these people apparently so different. In fact, the characters are all equal in front of the camera and the beholder listen to them without the prejudices that too often characterize the human way of thinking.

Eternal Coexistence

The French director aims to depict mankind in its entirety, referring to the eternal coexistence of good and evil. The documentary begins with a man sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering a woman and her child, and that, after a life driven by violence, has discovered the real meaning of love only thanks to Agnes, mother and grandmother of the victims, who continues to visit him in spite of what he did.

Not less touching is the story of a Palestinian father who has been able to break the circle of violence and revenge, usually characterizing the relationship between Israel and Palestine, forgiving the Israeli border policeman who killed his daughter; or even more the story of an Israeli father that, in spite of the death of her daughter during a Palestinian suicide bombing, still continues to wish for peace between the two sides.

Human duality is further stressed when two soldiers express different feelings about war. One shows a dark pleasure killing his enemy, and the other his reluctance and guilt.

Human to Human

The above-mentioned stories and opinions, as well as the others included by the director, portrays the positive and negative aspects of humanity and the viewers, as humans,  are left to recognize these in their own personalities.

The documentary also faces global warming and environmental issues through images from all over the world. In fact, the interviews are interspersed with stunning landscape shots that induce thought about what human activity is doing to the planet.

Particularly significant is the final shot in a desert territory: a man stands on a rocky mountain and the frame progressively widens, until the man becomes almost invisible. It is human smallness compared to the power and the greatness of the planet Earth.

“Human” is not a docu-film, it is an ode to acceptance, love and equality and it reminds us that, even if other human beings may seem so different from us, we share a belonging to a common humanity.

The high value of this work has been recognized all over the world and a special launch screening took place at the United Nations Assembly Hall, in presence of the then Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

Categories
Films from the Bucket
Vanessa Manente

Vanessa studied International Relations at "La Sapienza" University in Rome, where she graduated with a final dissertation concerning the death penalty in the US. After her studies, she started working for the Embassies of Malta in Brussels and in Rome during the Maltese EU Presidency. Previously, she volunteered at a shelter for migrants in Italy; whilst, in Belgium, where she is currently working as a liaison officer, she volunteers within the events team of Emergency, an Italian NGO that provides free medical treatments to the victims of poverty and war, promoting a culture of peace.
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