“Life is sacred, that is to say it is the supreme value, to which all other values are subordinate.” – Albert Einstein
If you are looking for an up-lifting film experience that will reaffirm your faith in others and in living life itself, look no further than “The Human Experience.” Directed by Charles Kinnane, produced by Grassroots media and released in 2008, the message portrayed in this film is just as important and inspiring today as it was 11 years ago.
The film is based on three experiences. Following two brothers, Clifford Azize and Jeffrey Azize and two of their friends, Michael Campo and Matthew Sanchez, as they search for meaning in their lives. The film also interviews artists, human rights activists, philosophers, and others who are experts in their fields of study.
The quest to find meaning in one’s life is not new. Who am I? What is my purpose? How do I fit into my family, society, my village, my world? And many more questions have been asked since the dawn of humanity. What is unique about this documentary film is the way in which participants go about their search.
The first experience is with Jeffrey and Clifford as they spend a week with the homeless community in New York City during a February cold snap. One man helps the brothers set up a place to sleep the first night. He tells them to sleep by a church because they are less likely to make you leave. A homeless woman who was interviewed by the brothers said that you must have family and friends to survive in this world. She talked about how she had been homeless several different times. One time she was standing on the street with four dogs. People came and took the dogs and found homes for them, but left her there on the street. A homeless man in a soup kitchen told the brothers that you can lose everything but they can’t take away your hopes and dreams.
For the second experience the brothers, Clifford and Jeffrey, join Surf for the Cause and volunteer at a hospital for abandoned children in Lima, Peru. The founder of the hospital shared what inspired him to do this work. There were temporary volunteers, people who just helped out for a specific amount of time and permanent volunteers who had dedicated their lives to the work. Some of the children in this hospital would go back to their families once they were healed. Their families did not have the skills or resources to take care of the children. Other children were abused, abandoned and left to die. For these children, the hospital was their home and their refuge. No matter what type of situation the children had come from they were fed, safe and cared for at this hospital. The thing I took away from this experience was the pure joy that children have. Even in the face of insurmountable odds and horrible events in their past, you could see the joy in the faces of the children.
The third experience takes place in the African nation of Ghana. The brothers join their friends, Michael and Matthew, as they travel to visit people dying from AIDS/HIV and visit a leper colony. One of the young men’s mother had died of AIDS when he was nine years old. At one point they are interviewing a young woman, who is dying from the disease, and they ask her what wisdom would she leave to her children. She said she would want them to know about her faith in God and His love. She goes on to say that she would want her children to know how much she loved them. It was an incredibly powerful moment in the film.
Leprosy was/is considered to condemnation. Many of the people who lived at the colony had been left there by family members. Never seeing their familes again. A man at the colony asked the Jeff, Cliff, Matthew and Michael if they were afraid of the people with leprosy. They said no that you are human beings like us. This made the man very happy. He went on to say that his son never came to see him that he was ashamed of him because of the disease. The hope, faith and sense of community shared by those interviewed in this section of the film is truly inspiring.
Upon returning to New York, all of these young men had been changed by their experiences. At one point Jeff says that no matter what your difficulties and experiences are life is still good.
As an added component to the film, is the story of Jeff and his interview about his life. Jeff and Cliff’s father was abusive and an alcohoic while they were growing up. Jeff had not seen his father in ten years. Keep in mind that he is only twenty at the time this was filmed. Cliff arranges for Jeff and their father to meet. In an emotional reunion, Jeff forgives his father for past events and makes arrangements to see him again.
I cannot recommend this Documentary film enough. See it. You will be glad that you did.