Finding Humanity



What exactly makes us humans? A question Yann Arthus-Bertrand asked himself when he encountered this farmer in Mali after his helicopter broke down. He had spent the entire day talking with him. He spoke with great dignity about his life, family, hopes, fears and ambition, all without complaint. The closeness he felt during this encounter left a great impression on Yann. Inspiring the creation of his non-profit project, HUMAN.

HUMAN is a collection of stories about the people on this world. They were interviewed about their understanding of socially-relevant topics. The central question being: “Why is it that we as people can’t live in peace together without fear, conflict or war?” Yann Arthus-Bertrand spent three years of his life collecting over 2,000 real-life stories from 60 different countries. Bringing us face to face with others, Arthus-Bertrand shows us the dark side of humankind while shedding light on the good parts as well.


“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.”

— Yann Arthus-Bertrand


HUMAN became the first movie to premiere in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations, and with a good reason. In a sincere way, displaying who we’re as humans by showing the most unbelievable life-stories and their significant moments that occur throughout. Showing this in classrooms all around the world will be the next step in understanding different perspectives. Yes, they’re subjective stories, but that’s the point. Stories are meant to be different and unique. That’s what shows and makes us humans; not about deriving to one right answer, but more-so to depict where people are coming from: A single concept with different interpretations and how people make sense of things.


Yann’s signature style of above the earth footage was once again breath-taking. He manages to capture the scene in such a way that it makes you realize the beauty and simplicity provided by Mother Nature while the shots also memorably emphasize how people equally coexist with the forces of nature. The documentary demonstrates its greatness and why we as people should respect it. His shots in combination with the soothing and atmospheric music delivered a sublime experience that send shivers down my spine continuously.


But its true power is reflected in the different stories that are voiced in different personal examples throughout the film. (The very personal stories by every individual made me reach for a tissue a few times). The candid close-up interview about love, war, loss and family were intense. As if they were opening up to you in person, you could feel their pain, their struggle, their happiness and joy. Sometimes it felt like they reopened old wounds while still demonstrating how it made them stronger as a person in the end.


One of the interviewees was Leonard (USA), his story made me pause for a break from the emotional intensity of the documentary. He told of how because of his stepfather, he had this distorted vision of what love was supposed to be. After every beating he would tell him “It hurt me more than it hurt you. I only did it because I love you”. Leonard grew up thinking that love was suppose to hurt.


‘‘I measured love by how much someone would take from me.

And it wasn’t until I came to prison, in an environment that is devoid of love,

that I began to have some understanding about what it actually was and was not’’.


He did the worst kind of murder a man could do, which was murdering a women and a child. But in prison he met someone, who gave him the first real insight of what love really is.


‘‘It was Agnes, the mother and grandmother of Patricia and Chris,

the woman and child that I murdered who gave me my best lesson about love.

By all rights, she should hate me. But she didn’t.”


‘‘She gave me love. She taught me what it was’’.


After he finished the story it makes you take a deep breath; what a tough story to process. This was one of the examples that shows you just what exactly people are capable of in both a bad and good light. Another story that really left his prints in my memory was the interview with John (USA) and his very optimistic grandfather. He tells about the magical moment he had with him after his grandmother died.


‘‘Grandpa, how are you doing?’’ in which he answered:

‘Did you know that for 4 dollars, that I can get a shuttle anywhere in the city?’.

‘That is great, grandpa’.

He said: Well, I went to the grocery store, and I went to the women behind the counter and said: ‘‘I have this list of things. Could you help me find them? My wife has recently changed her residence to heaven’’.

And I said: Grandpa, man, you always help me see the glass as half full. He leaned back and looked me in the eye, and he said:


‘It’s a beautiful glass’’.


These are just a mere scope of all the stories told in HUMAN, stories Yann all made available on YouTube to spread his message. Before watching this over 3-hours long documentary, it’s easy for one to judge or to define what fear, love and terror is. But afterwards, you realize it’s such a complex thing to do. HUMAN will either inspire you, change you, make you speechless, or it will at least make you reflect on your own personal life.


“To succeed in your professional life isn’t that hard, but to succeed in your personal life is a lot harder. To really be a human is a lot harder. We forget about that.”

—Yann Arthus-Bertrand

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