Documentary: What makes us HUMAN?

HUMAN; a documentary directed by Yann Arthus-Bertrand
What is it that makes us human?
Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The quest for discovery? Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist Yann Arthus-Bertrand spent three years collecting stories from more than 2,000 women and men in 60 countries. Working with his team, he captured personal and emotional accounts of topics that unite all human beings. Real-life stories about struggles with war, poverty, work, homophobia mixed with moments of love and happiness, tears and crying.

HUMAN brings spectators face to face with others, making them reflect on their own lives. From stories of everyday experiences to accounts of the most unbelievable lives, these poignant encounters share a rare sincerity and underline who people (we) are. It shows our darker side, but also what is most noble in us, and that as a whole is universally shared humanity.

An ode to the endangered planet earth

The confrontations with the lives of others are interspersed with beautiful panoramas. Arthus-Bertrand is known for his environmental struggle. He comments: ‘I dreamed of a film in which the power of words would resonate with the beauty of the world. Our earth is shown at its most sublime aerial images accompanied by soaring music, resulting in an ode to the beauty of the world.’ An ode with the critical dimension of silently questioning human responsibility for the future of the planet. The panoramic views are also providing a moment to draw breath and for introspection.

HUMAN is a politically engaged work and, as a narrative project, meant to encourage reflection on the human condition, ignite a conversation around the meaning of our existence, and empower people to make social change.

Flourishing and suffering

From a care ethical view HUMAN contributes to highlighting ethos, the lived life of people and how they themselves evaluate their lives.

Social Scientist Andrew Sayer, author of Why things matter to people (2011), focuses on the importance of realizing that people’s relation to the world is one of concern. People evaluate their lives in terms of flourishing and suffering and that’s what is shown ultimately in HUMAN. The movie confronts spectators with questions of perspectivity. One of the interviewed persons: ‘What would I like to ask? What the hell I am doing here? To see what the hell is going on? Let’s switch for a minute. You come here and be me and I’ll go there and be you. We’ll meet up at this middle-line on the Equator and we’ll play golf (laughing)’.

The United Nations has chosen to premiere HUMAN on September 12th, 2015 in honor of the 70th anniversary of the United Nation General Assembly. On the same day, the film was screened at the Venice Film Festival while Google released special and exclusive content on their homepage.

Volume one

HUMAN is a three volume project.
Volume 1 deals with the themes of love, women, work and poverty. Watch volume 1 on Youtube.
Volume 2 deals with the themes of war, forgiving, homosexuality, family and life after death. Watch volume 2 on Youtube.
Volume 3 deals with the themes of happiness, education, disability, immigration, corruption and the meaning of life. Watch volume 3 on Youtube.

Discover more contents at

Learn more about the HUMAN project at the official website.

About the author: Jeannet van de Kamp

Jeannet van de Kamp

Jeannet van de Kamp (1957) has master’s degrees in both Theology and Ethics of Care and is currently a PhD-candidate at the VU-University of Amsterdam. In her thesis she examines, from a care-ethical perspective, how citizen-patients are seen in the context of the upcoming experience economy. More specifically, she examines how ‘patient-experience-central’ market models deal with the concepts of vulnerability and suffering. She works as a freelance pastor.

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