Launched simultaneously last September at the United Nations in New York and the Venice Biennale Film Festival, HUMAN is based on 2,000 filmed interviews recorded over three years around the world. It is an exceptional cinematographic project that seeks to explore how ordinary people view life. “I wanted to try and understand humanity with this film,” explained French photographer and film-maker Yann Arthus-Bertrand at the United Nations in Geneva this month. (See Trailer)
For Arthus-Bertrand, best known for his “The Earth from the Air” book and his 2009 film “Home”, the purpose of this marathon award-winning initiative is to allow human beings to voice their own personal views on topics ranging from happiness and tolerance to war, justice and poverty. Edited down to 12 hours, but with a shorter 3.15 hour version available for regular distribution in cinemas, television, social media and using other forms of ICT, there is no commentary. Only the perspectives of individuals, some 300 selected from the original interviews, are heard.
“It is a film about war, the Middle East, Cambodia, Ukraine. It is about refugees. About the environment. It is about what we all do with other, or to each other. About why we react in the way we do. It is about life. It is about what it means to be a human being,” he explained.
The Paris-based cine-photographer noted that the film, which already has been viewed in over 50 countries, is primarily about love and happiness, but also hatred and violence. It depicts poignant individual stories of hope, resilience and defiance as well as the darker side of life. “It denounces certain things that are happening in this world. How can the international community accept the way 5,000 women and girls have been turned into sex slaves by Daech (ISIS)? How can we tolerate that? How can Man regress to something like that?”
Arthus-Bertrand, who has been involved in photojournalism for over 40 years, further observed that the film shows that “all of us are everyone.” As an Israeli woman in the film explains, “she is not only an Israeli woman, but a Palestinian one. She is also soldier. And she is the one responsible for what happened in the gas chambers. What she is saying is that we are all, in one way or another, part of what is happening on our planet. We all have a responsibility.”
The film, a project which began five years ago and was fully funded by the Fondation Bettencourt Schueller, was shot by five young film-makers who travelled around the world to record the interviews. Arthus-Bertrand himself, focusing on what he does best, undertook aerial shots to depict life below from above offering a powerful and highly striking source of imagery.
The French cine-photographer said that he wants every human being to see the film, a a universal project that is meant to be disseminated as widely as possible. “I shouldn’t say this, but I love this film. It is a chance to let human beings express their feelings without being imposed upon by politicians or war-makers,” he said. He hopes that people, particularly in Africa and Asia who might not be able to view it in a cinema or on television, would be able to access it via social media, such as Google which is providing it for free on Youtube. It is also being shown in schools, museums, festivals, cultural centres, diplomatic missions and other venues.
While he welcomed the involvement of the United Nations in this project, he added that the film, which has no copyright, was not made for rulers and politicians. “I despise them for what they are allowing to happening. We are paralyzed but the egotism of nations. It is up to ordinary people to take action. And that is what the UN is supposed to be about.”