Making the Grades
Brothers Jeffrey and Clifford Azize are at the helm of the documentary The Human Experience. Seeking for the meaning of life is a quest that has engaged the best minds and most fervent searchers for centuries. Given their age and inexperience, the young filmmakers’ earnest efforts are commendable, if not always perfectly executed.
Living in Brooklyn’s St. Francis House for young men who need a new start, the two siblings want to see how others experience life. Not wandering far from home, the young men and their film crew spend a week living on the streets with New York City’s homeless. It turns out to be the coldest week of February. Sleeping in cardboard boxes and huddling over air vents, they meet a variety of locals including a struggling, aging alcoholic and a young black man who remains remarkably upbeat about turning his life around. There is a sobering moment when one older woman talks about passersby who jump to rescue three stray dogs from the cold yet total ignore the homeless humans on the same street. Still despite their circumstances, most of the interviewees feel their lives have a purpose.
Later the brothers travel to Peru with a group of surfers who pride themselves on giving back to the community. After hitting the beaches to challenge the waves, the members of Surf For the Cause spend time in an orphanage helping abandoned and abused children, many with severe medical issues. Some of these children have been mutilated by their own parents. Others have been born with serious disabilities, including one small boy who has no arms and only one leg. Even with the horrors already experienced in their short lives, many of these children still laugh, smile and play.
Finally the brothers and their crew fly to Ghana where they visit a leper colony. In the forested locale, victims of the disease are segregated from their families and communities. With bodies ravaged by the flesh-destroying bacteria, this small group of sufferers supports one another in their pain and find something to laugh about with the young visitors.
Cutting their film footage with interviews from researchers, specialists and medical experts, the documentary makers try to make sense of their own life experiences and those of the people they meet. While they may fall short of conclusively defining the big question of humanity, their remarkable efforts will give audiences a chance to consider their own views on the definition of the human experience.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Human Experience.
One character says that children will see the world through the way they experience their home life. What does he mean? If home is a place of fear or abuse, is it easier to believe that the world is a bad place? What role do parents have in establishing the home environment?
Why do you think people were more willing to rescue stray dogs from the street than help homeless people? What challenges might have driven people to become homeless? What is the best way to help people who are on the streets?
While not all of us may engage in the same activities as these young men, what are some simple things each person can do to help others in their communities or the world?