An incredible project was made public in September 2015. – a project followed with almost no media attention but more enlightening and eye-opening than many we have seen in a long time.
It is called ‘Human‘.
In a series of interviews with people all around the globe, combined with breathtaking aerial shots of our magnificent Mother Earth and with stunning background music, author Yann Arthus-Bertrand tries to answer the question what is it that makes human: a question we all ought to stop and ask ourselves.
He explains his inspiration by saying simply:
“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.”
What is it that makes us human?
What is it that distinguishes us from other Earthly creatures?
What is it that makes our lives worthwhile?
It might be difficult, if at all possible, to answer these questions, but listening closely to the stories might get us closer to the truth. And some are uncannily breathtaking, to the point they seem unbelievable.
Take Ruth, for example…
“Here’s what happened: a German officer in as SS uniform entered the ghetto one rainy night. My mother told him: “Take my daughter.” She lifted the wire fence and handed him her baby, me, a Jewish girl, two and a half years old. And with a heavy heart, she put me in the hands of a wonderful man in an SS uniform.
I now know that this man, Alois Pleva, served in the German army and lived near the German border. This man put me in his coat. He hid me inside his coat and took me to the border between Germany and Poland to his parents. They passed me off as his daughter. They raised me in the purest Catholic tradition until the end of the war.
What a gesture! What magic, this outstretched hand! Like sparks of light in what we call human folly.
Sometimes a question comes to mind. If I had been in a situation like that, would I have acted in the same way as that German officer? How can I answer such a question? I don’t think I would have had the moral strength to do it, in all honesty. Maybe. Did he know he had the strength? How can you know?
How can you recognize the moment of truth when you can sacrifice yourself, sacrifice the only life you have for someone else?
There’s no answer to that question. Or a question others can answer.
But this question must be asked.”
What is amazing is how, through listening to the stories, we reach the point of better understanding other human beings, which leads us to more love in this world.
When we listen to Jean-Pierre, for example.
“Not feeling acknowledged. Not feeling understood. Not feeling loved by your family, quite simply. Loved, but not loved for who you are. You want to share something. A homosexual doesn’t know if it’s wrong or not. If he’s told it’s good, or rather, that’s how it is, he doesn’t think that… It’s more or less like someone who worries that he has cancer. He’s anxious. He needs to hear he isn’t sick. A homosexual wonders what’s wrong with him. He doesn’t know if it’s serious or not and what will happen to him.
There’s nothing more wonderful than parents who say: “So what? You’re gay, so what? As long as you’re happy.”
It’s so obvious! This “So what?” is so often lacking.”
A documentary could not have been created without raising some very actual issues that affect the world, maybe best sublimed in what Mouneer from Jordan said.
“There are two parties. Both are Syrian. I have friends and family in both. They are ready to take up arms and kill their neighbors, in the name of politics.
They forget the essential: humanity.
Politics is just relations between powerful nations and people. We’re little guys. We’ll never change anything.
I’ve seen death with my own eyes. I’ve seen my friends lying there, lifeless. When the explosions started, there was one very close to my house. It wrecked my taxi. I saw blood, people’s legs, heads, and arms on the ground.
When I saw all that, it filled me with fear and sorrow. Man can become a monster.
I don’t trust anyone, anymore, except myself. It’s over.
That is why I cut myself off from relations with souls: with every form of human being. It all means nothing.”
And there are some ever-present, never solved issues. We might see them in a whole different light once we are faced with the influence they have on our fellow humans – like Sylver from Rwanda.
“What I’ll never forget is what I saw at the time. The fact that one person killed another with a machete.
The reason I can’t forget is that a large part of my family was killed. Before my eyes. What I can’t forget is that the killers cut up a living person with a machete, right in front of me.
I can’t forget it because it happened.
I experienced it.
But it’s incomprehensible.
And impossible to forget.”
There is a pearl of wisdom shared by Sergey form Russia, the one that got me choked.
“Maybe these atrocities make people more violent, because they want to avenge them. Even though I can understand that, I try to keep my humanity.
Once you have killed a man, it becomes clear to you you can never hope for heavenly peace, for peace within yourself. When you have killed your enemy, he is no longer an enemy.
So why did you kill him?
It’s an endless cycle. That’s simply the way human nature is.
When you kill a man, only afterward do you realize you should avoided going that far.
Because then, you live with that for the rest of your life. It’s not easy. ”
With the tragic stories we come to realization it is fear that awakens and ignites some of the most terrible actions towards our fellow humans. Fear, the only opposite of love, can only be conquered by love.
And sometimes this very love is concealed in child’s innocence and wisdom… Like touching Tatyana‘s story…
“When I was six years old my parents and I went to the supermarket. It was far away. We had to take a bus. At the big store, we walked through the toy department. I stopped short in front of a glass case containing a magnificent doll. Of course, I had no idea how much things cost. So my mother said to me:
“I can’t afford to buy you this doll.”
And I answered her like a wise old woman:
“Mama, I’m not asking you to buy her. I just want you to let me admire her a little.”
My mother still weeps when she tells this story.”
This all is love, and if we all try to put more love into this world we might create a better, more peaceful place for all… As Daniel from Mexico simply explains….
“Love is the beginning and the end. Love is where we come from, where we’re going and what we live between the two.
Love is everything.”
Immaculate in its entirety, Human, all three extended parts, is maybe the most appropriate watching suggestion this holiday season.