"All human beings are important and have something to say”. Yann Arthus-Bertrand, photographer, environmentalist, and French director, shows this in his last film, Human, an extraordinary portrait of humanity, a documentary that questions on the meaning of life and of being human.
Through the voice of common people from all over the planet. 2020 interviews, two and a half years of shootings in 60 different countries in the world and in 63 different languages to produce a film (191 minutes), which touches us closely because “we are all instruments that play in the gigantic orchestra of life” and these people who speak are our mirror. Besides the people, the film features images of the beauty of the world and music, to reflect and ponder.
5 years after the film Home, produced by Luc Besson, that has been watched by 600 million people around the world, Yann Arthus –Bertrand launches a new challenge with Human, released at the General Assembly of the United Nations and at the Venice Film Festival in 2015.
Human has already been screened in 50 countries around the world, and it will reach the largest number of people, thanks to a multi-level distribution plan, from cinema to television, to the internet, where it is possible to watch the film on youtube.
We met Yann Arthus-Bertand on the occasion of the presentation of Human in Milan, at the Anteo cinema, where the film, that is distributed in Italy by Academy two, is now on screen.
How was the idea of the film born?
While I was making "La terre vue du ciel" (Earth from Above), a photographic project and a book that has sold more than 3 million copies, I went to Mali with the farmers practising subsistence agriculture, that are a billion people all over the world. They have spoken to me about their fears: the fear of death, the fear of disease, the fear of not feeling part of the world. And what they have told me, looking at me straight in the eyes, has been more powerful than what any journalist or scientist could have told me.
I started in 2003 to work on a project: “7 milliards d'Autres” (“7 billion Others”), on the people of the world. 6000 interviews filmed in 84 countries by about 20 reporters in search of “Others”. Human is inspired by this project.
What drove you to realise Human?
I wanted to look for an answer to all those essential questions that we ask ourselves on the meaning of life: why there is war, why there is poverty, why there is the refugee crisis, why homophobia…. Human is a political film, that makes us reflect on the meaning of our existence through the confrontation with Others. And it is an essay of a director that wants to speak about love. In the film the people also speak about happiness, about values such as family and love. As a disabled boy says in the film “Only love will save us”. Human is a utopian film, but maybe utopia is a premature truth.
What kind of film is Human?
A film that speaks to people's heart. It shows who we are, through the words of all those people who speak and look at you straight in the eyes, and who are our mirror.
It is all all those people who are interviewed who make the strength of the film, that has to be watched with a lot of humility because it is made by all those people. It is a very intimate and spiritual film. And it is surely a very difficult film because it is long, it is hard, and because life itself is difficult. It is a film that I love very much, that enriches me and gives me a lot of happiness. When I did the editing I realised that no actor could have been better than these people, no made-up story could have been stronger.
I hope this film will change you, as it has changed me
How did you choose the people who have talked in the film?
We have selected them according to the issues that we wanted to deal with. We have been around the world, in the streets, in the fields, in the schools, in prisons…. We have interviewed refugees in Morocco, Sicily and Calais. We have asked all interviewed people the same questions, always the same, independently from the origin, the culture, starting from the simplest to the most complicated ones, such as “What was the most difficult moment in your life”, and “What is the meaning of life”? We have told these people that all the things they would have said would have been listened to by millions of people around the world and that all the things they would have said would have been important. It has been like doing psychoanalysis, because the questions were asked with lots of empathy and kindness and in the end people let themselves go and many of them cried and we cried, we laughed together with them, we have become friends, it has been beautiful and difficult.
What does the film want to show?
We live in very difficult times. It is the first time in human huistory that the future looks so uncertain: global warming, the refugee crisis, the growing gap between rich and poor, the economic crisis…. The only thing we can do to face the difficult periods that are coming is to live together, accepting the world for what it is and trying to do the best that we can. Because we all have a mission. As an African boy says in the film “We all have a mission that God has given us”, our duty is to understand what that mission is. This film and my work want to make the necessary empathy emerge to live all together in this world with such an uncertain future.
How is the documentary structured?
It developed without a screenplay. We filmed for two and a half years and the editing took one year. The editing was the most demanding part as there was not a story. We created the film with 2020 interviews, a part of which have only been used, and many hours of aerial shooting. The difficulty was balancing the words, music and the beauty of the world.
Human is the first feature film produced thanks to the cooperation of two non profit foundations…
The documentary has been financed by the Bettencourt Schueller Foundation, thanks to which the film can be watched for free in all schools and in all associations around the world. It is a project of the GoodPlanet Foundation, that I have founded in 2005 and that raises awareness on global sustainable issues.
What is your next project?
It’s called WOMEN and it is a project dedicated to women, because after having made this film it was clear to us that we had to talk about women.
All aerial images and portraits : ©HUMANKIND Production – all rights reserved
Photo of Yann Arthus-Bertrand: ©A. Miquel.
Harvests in the Tigray region, Ethiopia (13°29’ N – 39°28’ E)
Somalian Refugee Camps In Dadaab: The Kambioos Camp, Kenya
Manhattan Island and One World Trade Center, New York City, United States
Dyeing factory, near Karachi, Sindh province, Pakistan
Naval demolition yard , Gadani, Balochistan, Pakistan
Attabad Lake (also known as Gojal Lake), on the Hunza river, Gilgit–Baltistan, northern Pakistan
Caravan of yaks in the dunes near Skardu, the Indus valley, Gilgit–Baltistan, Pakistan
The Agua Azul waterfalls on the river Yax-Há, Chiapas State, Mexico
Meanders of the Tuul, Töv, Mongolia
Temple Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Jalousie, a shantytown in the district of Pétionville, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, Haiti
The Abuna Yemata Guh church in the Gheralta massif, southern Hawzen, Tigray region, Ethiopia
Salar de Uyuni on the Bolivian high plateau, Daniel Campos Province, Potosí, Bolivia
“Covered” market, Cité Soleil, Port au Prince, Haiti
Open rubbish tip, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic