An unusual multimedia project by French photojournalist Yann Arthus-Bertrand is presented, first of all, by the 188-minute director’s master version of Human, which was released in full screen in 2015. On the YouTube platform, this documentary is freely available in three hour and a half formats, with subtitles in six languages: English, French, Arabic, Russian, Spanish, Portuguese.
Human is a member of the cinematic movement aimed at changing the world. If we talk about the origins of the project, then its idea is consonant with the legendary anti-globalization film triptych by G. Reggio “Katsi”, 1983 – 2002. The reference point for scenario decisions was the film drama “The Tree of Life” by T. Malik, 2010. Arthus-Bertrand got stuck somewhere in Mali due to a helicopter breakdown. The local peasant, with whom he spent the whole day, told a lot of interesting things about himself.
The author’s group of the Human project, consisting of 20 participants, visited 65 states in all corners of our planet for 3 years. The journalists took more than two thousand interviews with a variety of people: a farmer and a soldier; landfill dweller and office worker; a peasant and a resident of a metropolis; a Russian father who despaired of curing a sick child, and a Palestinian who lost his daughter in a terrorist attack in the Arab-Israeli conflict; a boy thrown onto the streets of Kinshasa because he is thought to be a sorcerer, and a lonely middle-class Irish woman aging bleakly without a biological family; Afghan refugees and untouchables in India; slave women and an Israeli woman rescued from the Warsaw ghetto by a Nazi officer.
All races and nationalities, all classes and religions, all ages and generations, all social strata and psychotypes. Monologues are heard in 63 languages of the world – the revelations of real people who, on a camera located a meter away from them, absolutely confidentially answer the same set of forty questions: about dreams and disappointments, about work and family, about ambitions and failures, about disasters and happiness. The viewer does not hear the questions themselves, does not know any details about the interview participants themselves (their names, biographical information and countries where they come from), but only listens to the person’s story in their native dialect.
In the film, the author does not say high-flown words about the mission of man, but comprehends the phenomenon of one. The genius of Jan Arthus-Bertrand is fueled by a power that we often forget about – the ability to change the world with one small, tiny, at times seemingly insignificant action. A series of burning stories of personal suffering or softer reflections on everyday life’s difficulties ends with such an ending. The figure of a man standing on a rocky ledge in the Abyssinian Highlands. When the slow zoom of the camera brings the landscape back to its real scale, the person completely disappears from view. But the viewer knows for sure that he is standing there. Thus, the photographer-journalist-director emphasizes the meaning, the author’s message and the fundamental thesis of the film: “the world is us.”
The genre of the film is far from traditional documentaries in the style of “talking heads”. Indicative are the arranged montage and the immediacy of the statements of the participants in the filming. For example, the dumbfounding words of a repentant killer about understanding love – a young African American Leonardo was imprisoned for life. Or a wise reflection on the happiness of the gray-haired Uruguayan Jose Mujica – the former president of the country convicted of partisanship spent 10 years in solitary confinement.
Journalistic fundamentality in Human is surprisingly combined with tourist gloss. Eyes run up from the colors and geometry of luxurious earthly landscapes: green rice fields, bewitching clouds, a bird wedge in the sky, seething waters of rivers. They are replaced by pictures of civilization: billowing human waves in a European football stadium; a bulldozer in a giant landfill, shot with a long-focus lens, rolls a mountain of garbage onto the viewer; a single mass of hundreds of people in lifebuoys, who are right next to each other swinging on the waves of a water attraction. All this contrasts sharply with the “personal” close-ups. People talking about themselves are shown against a black background, without musical accompaniment and any personal information in order to emphasize the common thing that we all have.
Human has a powerful political component and a bright social color. Many topical and global topics are touched upon: hunger, poverty, violence, war, politics, religion, forced migration, problems of the gender system, morality and immorality. But the film does not answer questions, but asks them. This makes its meaning “transparent”: so that each of us can see and understand how the planet actually lives.