“Human”: People around the world tell their stories, which add up, against alien-looking scenery

Human“, the project of Yann Arthus-Bertrand, alternates interviews with ordinary people from all over the world with aerial images of people in collective actions, or sometimes scenery that is so abstract in design and non biological colors that it looks alien.

The first interview presents a convicted murderer who meditates on learning what love and forgiveness mean. In time, other interviews present what makes humans tick, and some of it is chilling. A couple young men present what makes them want to fight an enemy in a brotherhood (jihad). Others talk about being socialized to sacrifice themselves to overcome common enemies. But as the film progresses, the interviews open up. In the middle section, several gay people speak, starting with a woman who had sex with a man under family pressure and got HIV from heterosexual activity. The religious objection to homosexuality, especially within Islam, is briefly explored. So is immutability.

Then the interviews move back toward a bigger vision of social justice.  One speaker (an Aborigine) mentions that earlier cultures did not have words to indicate personal ownership of anything. There is a lot of attention to the enslavement of low-wage workers overseas in quasi-dorm life.

The intervening photography is stunning.  One of the first images is of people playing soccer on a mountain plateau.  There are mass crowds with human columns and waves.  There are odd images of gas and water that look like they come right out of Christopher Nolan (“Interstellar”).  There is a shocking scene of manual labor in a mine in Russia.  Near the end there is a shocking scene of the slums in Senegal. There are over 60 filming locations.  There is an interesting abstract of Manhattan at night with the reflected light manipulated to look like fire.

The music score, by Armand Amar, resembles the music of Philip Glass.

A possible comparison would be “Koyaanisqatsi“, by Godfrey Reggio (1982).

Senegal scene similar to film, Wiki.

Name: Human
Director, writer:  Yann Arthus-Bertrand
Released:  2015
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Filmfest DC, Landmark E St, 2017/4/24, large auditorium, full
Length:  143  (full theatrical is 190)
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Kino Lorber
Link:  official, Filmfest

(Posted: Monday, April 24, 2017 at 11 PM EDT)

“Oriented”: young gay men cross the Israel-Palestinian conflict in their relationships, questioning the moral hold of religious-based culture

Tel Aviv LGBT pride parade 2015
Tel Aviv LGBT pride parade 2015


Name: Oriented
Director, writer:  Jake Witzenfeld
Released:  2016
Format:  digital film, 1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Vimeo screener from distributor (private)
Companies: Quiver Digital, Conch
Link: official site 

The film “Oriented”, directed by Jake Witzenfeld, goes to the root of the tension between personal sexual identity and loyalty to cultural, tribal or religious affiliation, by presenting gay love relationships that cross the war lines between Israel and Palestinians.  It’s a film that takes no prisoners, figuratively speaking.

The 79-minute film traces three men in particular.  Khafer Abu Seif, the son of a Palestinian “mafia” boss, lives with Jewish boyfriend, David Pearl, in Tel Aviv, which looks spectacular at night in a few scenes (as does Amman, the “gateway to the Arab world”). Fadi Daeem also has a Jewish love, but the most pointed story concerns the handsome, rather virile Naeem Jiyrles, who confronts his Palestinian family when he comes out to them at about age 25.

Naeem insists he is not the same person now he was as a boy, but is 100% happy with his identity living on his own.  His family keeps asking why being 90% happy isn’t good enough with the world his wealthy family (which seems to be sheltered from the settlement-taking and violence in many West Bank towns). He is asked bluntly, don’t you want children to carry on the family name, and he says, no one should have to answer a question like that. Naeem is criticized for his egotism and asked something like, can you change things for the good of the outside (e.g., your family).

Indeed, one is already responsible for one’s own family even without having one’s own children. In much of the world, belonging to your culture is much more important than individual choice, and marriage and family values are seen in a collective context, which gives marriage and religion a certain sense of meaning that becomes very addictive to a lot of people in authoritarian cultures. Being “better than others” as an individual is not seen as a virtue, but as a way of driving down one’s brethren (like the lesson of Joseph in Genesis).


The film progresses with a backdrop of war, and of kidnappings and murders of teens on both sides being covered in the news.  The Israeli draft is mentioned (Israel has accepted gays in the military since the early 1990s, much sooner than the US did with its “don’t ask don’t tell”).

There is a line about how Jewish gay people treat Palestinian gays, retorted with, “how will they take you in your own homeland”?

The three main characters form a non-violent resistance group called Qambuta, making viral videos.

The film is distributed by Quiver Digital (produced by Conch)l as part of an LGBT Middle Eastern Culture Equality Outreach”.

Films for comparison would include “A Sinner in Mecca” (2015, and “A Jihad for Love”) by Parvez Sharma, and “Out in the Dark” (2012) by Michael Mayer.

Wikipedia attribution link for Tel Aviv Pride in 2015 (US Embassy, CCSA 2.0.)   Second picture is mine (mosque in Washington DC).

(Posted: Monday, May 16, 2016, at 11 PM EDT)