HU­MAN, doc­u­men­tary, not rated, in mul­ti­ple lan­guages with sub­ti­tles, The Screen, 4 chiles

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - — Michael Abatemarco

French film­maker Yann Arthus-Ber­trand’s doc­u­men­tary Hu­man tells the sto­ries of or­di­nary peo­ple from around the world and the strug­gles they’ve faced. Arthus-Ber­trand and a team of 16 jour­nal­ists in­ter­viewed thou­sands of peo­ple from 60 coun­tries and com­piled a mov­ing and com­pas­sion­ate por­trait of hu­man­ity. Eye­wit­nesses to the Rwan­dan geno­cide, Syr­ian refugees, sur­vivors of Pol Pot’s Kh­mer Rouge, United States Army vet­er­ans, per­pe­tra­tors of vi­o­lence, vic­tims of vi­o­lence, and oth­ers tell their sto­ries of war, oppression, love, and for­give­ness. Their in­ter­views are all in close-up with no names given, em­pha­siz­ing that Hu­man is one great story told through many voices. But in­ter­wo­ven in the telling of th­ese au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal ac­counts is dra­matic, cap­ti­vat­ing footage of peo­ple — of­ten us­ing in­cred­i­ble aerial pho­tog­ra­phy — that shows how they live and work. Th­ese po­etic images of toil, cer­e­mony, ritual, and ev­ery­day life are set to a mov­ing score by com­poser Ar­mand Amar. Trimmed down from its orig­i­nal length of three-plus hours, Hu­man is still a long watch but worth every mo­ment. Win­ner of the best doc­u­men­tary award at 2016’s Bei­jing In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val, the film pre­miered at the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly Hall in 2015. Arthus-Be­trand is a for­mer good­will am­bas­sador for the United Na­tions En­vi­ron­ment Pro­gramme.

Arthus-Ber­trand doesn’t deal in num­bers and sta­tis­tics in his am­bi­tious film, or re­port on cur­rent events. This is not a po­lit­i­cal doc­u­men­tary, al­though it touches on is­sues af­fect­ing com­mu­ni­ties to­day, such as the Syr­ian refugee cri­sis and the fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States. In­stead, he sim­ply lets the peo­ple voice their nar­ra­tives. Though mon­u­men­tal in scope, Hu­man is in­ti­mate, like a series of one-on-one con­ver­sa­tions and, no doubt, many in the au­di­ence will con­nect or re­late with at least one person’s mes­sage. It packs an emo­tional wal­lop sim­ply through its em­pha­sis on the shar­ing of per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences and thought­ful re­flec­tion on life, its mean­ing, and the fu­ture of hu­man­ity.

Some com­ments are hope­ful, some are bleak. An Amer­i­can com­bat veteran talks about his need to con­nect again to feel­ings and emo­tions when re­turn­ing from overseas, in­clud­ing his frus­tra­tion at be­ing seen as sol­dier first and a person sec­ond. An African vil­lager tells how his peo­ple used to die only from sick­ness but the pop­u­lar­ity of Kalash­nikov sub­ma­chine guns among the vil­lage youth has had a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect on their life ex­pectancy. A poor In­dian woman tells how, when she has no food, she gathers grains of rice she finds in rat holes. A Su­danese refugee tells of vic­tims killed by state spon­sored acts of ter­ror­ism and how his sis­ter was raped in front of him. A French woman speaks of her grand­mother and her ir­ra­tional fear of los­ing her mem­ory of her for­ever, and a man tells of his com­mit­ment to car­ing for his ter­mi­nally ill wife, tak­ing on the role of home nurse. Their sto­ries are poignant and hon­est, and the pic­ture that emerges is one of uni­ver­sal suf­fer­ing and sur­vival and the power of the hu­man spirit to en­dure.

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