Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Looking for the Whole Picture

The beautifully filmed introspective documentary, “The Human Experience,” asks the question, “What does it mean to be human?” The film is refreshing in its hopeful message as we follow two brothers from their home in a half-way house in New York City to discover the meaning of life. They spend a week with homeless men on the streets of New York, take a trip to Peru with a group of surfers who volunteered at a doctor’s clinic for mutilated children and to a leper colony in Ghana. As I observed my fellow audience members, I noticed that my heartstrings were not the only ones being strummed. Who would not be touched by lepers glad to have guests, homeless men who believe in God, and a child with one leg who is constantly smiling?

While the film could not fail to inspire, I don’t feel they sufficiently answered their fundamental question. The documentary returns to New York where the boys and experts talk about the importance of families. Supposedly, family is what makes us human. However, the entire full-length film did not show family life at all- except for the brief background story of the main character’s relationship with his father. Instead, the film explored themes of hope, charity, and community.

After the film there was a chance to ask the director and the main actor a number of questions. The questions ranged from filming techniques to trip details to questions about the actors’ personal lives. During this discussion, the director and actor fleshed out their ideas about families being the fundamental building block of society. I agree with this idea, naturally. I couldn’t help but be disappointed, however, by the lack of a cohesive answer within the film. If natural families were the focus, why were no homeless families shown, no African families, nor families in Peru? Not only were they not shown, it wasn’t clear that this was a fundamental lack in these places.

I am wholeheartedly in support of films with an anthropologically correct understanding of man, such as the “Human Experience,” which Grassroots Films produced. I simply implore wonderful new film companies like this one to artistically demonstrate the conclusion which they want their audiences to reach. This consistency in plot and artistic layout incorporates traditional ideas of literature with the inspirational message which new grassroots media wishes to convey.
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