The Human Experience (2008)

2 Jun

According to the official movie site this documentary should be giving answers to questions like: Who am I? Who is Man? Why do we search for meaning? These are very interesting questions and two brothers (Jeffrey en Clifford Azize) try to find the answers. They do this by living as the homeless, travel to Peru and visit Ghana. Does this movie show what the human experience is?

The movie is built up out of three parts. First the brothers decide to live on the streets of New York for a week. They meet other homeless people, talk to them and try to get know them and find out how they experience their lives. I though it was a shame that as a viewer you actually don’t see a lot of their stories. The brothers tell us that life is difficult and that they feel a change in their heart, but not enough material is shown to make you understand what they experienced. You see that they are begging for money and food, but it’s clear that there is a camera crew following them to film it all. I was constantly thinking that it would be better if they had shot it like they do in one of those survival programs on the Discovery Channel. The segment was also way too short to have any impact, which is a problem which exists during the whole movie.

The next segment is about the lost children of Peru. Jeffrey and Clifford join a couple of surfers who travel the world. Every place they surf they also try to help the local community. In Peru they decide to help at a place that takes care of children that can’t live with their parents and is run by volunteers. The care for them and bring them to the hospital when needed.

The last segment is supposed to be about patients with leprosy who live together in a colony in Ghana, but somehow the subject all of a sudden is about AIDS patients and how they think about life. I don’t mind this, but if you have a segment called the leper colony and all of a sudden it’s about something else, this is confusing and sloppy structuring of your documentary.

The problem I had with this documentary is that it tries to show too many things and because of this spreads itself too thin. It stays on the surface without really exploring a subject. The focus is also constantly on the two brothers and even though they talk with a lot of people, almost none of these conversations are shown and you hear one of the brothers tell the viewer what someone said. Because of this extra layer a lot of the emotion is lost.

So the focus of this documentary is not the “Human experience”, but the “Jeffrey and Clifford experience”. The documentary regularly uses segments where some specialist is talking about something, which might have th goal to inspire, just feels out-of-place and doesn’t add much. It felt artificial. This documentary does have some nice images, but doesn’t manage to sufficiently answer its own questions. It’s clear which message this film was supposed to bring across, but unfortunately this goal was not met. This movie should have focussed on one or two subjects, which would have resulted in a better documentary.

Score: 3


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