The Civic Media Center kicked off its May film series on Monday, showing volume one of Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s 2015 documentary “Human.” The documentary explores the human experience across various countries and cultures.
Karrie Ford, a Civic Media Center volunteer, decided to screen the film in Gainesville after watching it for the first time a few months ago.
“I think we can get so wrapped up in own world, our own small little world of our personal lives that we can forget about the larger scale of what’s going in the world,” Ford said. “I think this film specifically captures a collection, a collage of stories and faces, different physical features, different races, different religions and brings it all together in an hour and a half.”
“Human” is a simple film made up of aerial, scenic shots of different countries and first-person stories told directly to the camera. The contrast between the two types of shots is stunning.
The interviews are the heart of the documentary. They give insight into the lives and lifestyles of profoundly different groups of people.
One of the most gripping testimonials is an Indian woman describing the extent of her poverty. When her family has no food, they gather individual grains of rice from rat holes to feed themselves.
The only information given to the audience is the speaker’s first name and the country they live in. This deliberate withholding of information gives the film its strong, emotional impact. It is impossible to know anything that could categorize the interviewees. Information like their age, socioeconomic status and occupation are hidden. We only know what the subjects decide to share with us.
The stripped-down setting of “Human” gives the documentary a collectivist feel. Regardless of background, everyone is treated the same.
The director uses this to explore universal themes, such as love, gender, poverty, and struggle.
There is the wife of the polygamist, happy with her marriage. The Brazilian man frustrated that society will not let him love three women at once. The American man, who learned love from the mother of the woman he murdered.
The testimonials show both how connected humanity is in having the same values, and how different we are in expressing them across cultures.
The one problem that “Human” has comes from its repetitive structure. There is little visual change throughout the movie, besides having different faces on screen and the occasional drone shot. At times, this made it hard to stay engaged with film.
Stories are told at a fast pace that can sometimes be overwhelming. There are only a few cases where the person on screen is shown more than once, making it hard to remember each individual story.
Perhaps this structure is the point of “Human”.
The film paints a portrait of a diverse world. Everyone looks and sounds different. Everyone speaks different languages and follow different religions. However, each person spoke about the same themes, of love and family and struggle and hardship.
“Human” shows that even in a world full of divisiveness and conflict, the human race is fundamentally the same, regardless of what any person’s background is.
The Civic Media Center is showing volume two of “Human” on May 20and volume three on May 27. The screening will start at 7 p.m. both days and the event is free to attend.
The film "Human" is part of the Civic Media Center's "Movie Monday Film Series."