Friday, August 19, 2011

That Doc Will Make You Cry - The Human Experience

When I decided to pursue a Master's in film theory after completing an undergrad in Art History, I had a serious amount of catch-up viewing to do.  Don't get me wrong; I have always loved the experience of watching films.  Loved them on TV, loved them on VHS, loved them on DVD; really loved them in the theater; and soon loved watching them on streaming Internet.  But I had never really challenged myself to do anything with film other than have a passive, escapist experience.  I had never seen formative classic films like Citizen Kane and had never even heard of auteur's like Godard.  So, in Grad School, I watched a lot of film, tons of film - sometimes 4 films a day (the best homework I've ever done).  
What's my point?  The point here is I have seen many films ranging in reaction from "I'll never get that 90 minutes of my life back" to "I'm going to tell everyone I know to see this extraordinary film". 
Only a few films, however, have garnered the thought, "Wow. I wish I had made this film".  The Human Experience was one of these films.
There is certainly a reason why The Human Experience has received so many accolades and honors from the festival and award community.  It is everything a great documentary should be.  It has a compelling mission, clearly stated through a first person narrator backed by impressive images, wild adventures and strong motifs, themes, participants, interviews, and best of all, makes a prediction which over the course of filming is proven to be true. 
The film follows two young brothers on three adventures in search of a better understanding of life's meaning and the perseverance of the human spirit through illness, homelessness, poverty, and tragedy.  Brilliantly interwoven interviews by top theologians and scholars of Philosophy, Religious Studies and Science serve to intelligently and seamlessly incorporate a timeless questioning of the human condition, man's search for God, and the ability to continue forward in life despite grave obstacles. 
From living homeless on the streets of NYC in the dead of winter, to working for an orphanage for ill and disabled children in Peru, and travelling to a leper community in Africa, The Human Experience works hard to prove its own thesis: No matter what the outside circumstance, the human spirit is something of awe and wonderment, propelled forward by a divinity so lovingly simple, we cannot understand it but be humbled by it. 

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