New film aims to capture 'Human' experience

7th September 2015, Comments 0 comments

They are fighters, victims, murderers and survivors whose anonymous yet deeply personal interviews form the backbone of a new film from French photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand that seeks to capture our experience on Earth.

In the opening moments of "Human" -- which premieres Saturday at both the Venice Film Festival and the United Nations in New York -- a convicted killer on Death Row in the United States explains how he learned to love from the grandmother of one of his victims.

"She should hate me, but she didn't," he said. "She gave me love, she taught me what it was."

Over the course of the sprawling three-hour- plus film we meet a lesbian battling AIDS, a poor farmer whose joy in life is rainfall, a desperate migrant, and many others.

The on-screen interviews were distilled from more than 2,000 carried out with people in 60 countries over the three years it took to make the 11-million-euro ($12.2 million) movie.

Filmed close up, staring straight into the camera with a simple black background, they all were asked the same questions like: Do you feel free and what is the meaning of life?

"I feel like we are touching upon something essential. What does it mean to be a human being?" Arthus-Bertrand said in an interview.

"How can we stop hatred, vengeance? How do we want to change the way we live? These are potentially essential questions that we do not pose often enough."

Laced between the interviews are the sort of sweeping nature shots Arthus-Bertrand won acclaim for in his "Earth from above" book of aerial photos of some of Earth's most beautiful landscapes.

- 'What people revealed' -

In "Human" the camera soars above a football match on a high mountain plain, a camel train as it travels over dunes and an ancient lake that has taken the shape of a massive tree as it evaporates.

No context is provided for any of the interviews -- no names, titles or nationalities. Nor are there any experts explaining the meaning of the interviews.

Instead the message is in the choice of who appears on screen and what they say.

Arthus-Bertrand focuses on the impact of war, discrimination, family, money -- especially from the point of view of those from the most humble origins.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates and United Nations Secretary-General Ban-Ki moon were among the celebrities interviewed for the project, but both of their contributions ended on the cutting room floor.

Arthus-Bertrand said little emotion and frankness poured out in those interviews, unlike those with regular people.

"While with all those others who we interviewed, who often cannot read or write, there is a common sense that has maybe been overlooked," he said.

However the former Uruguayan president Jose Mujica, an ex-guerilla fighter imprisoned for over a decade, makes it into the movie.

While the film touches on some of the world's thorniest issues, there are many moments of tenderness.

A father recounts his instant acceptance of a gay son who struggled to come out. A proud man describes his sheer joy at buying his first moto scooter.

"The film has both utopian and naive tendencies, but at the same time I think we have made an extremely powerful movie because of what people revealed to us," Arthus-Bertrand said.

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© 2015 AFP

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