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Movie review by Kathleen Gilbert.

The tagline of the Human Experience, simple as it is, seems to scratch the itch rankling in the corners of our cyber-saturated minds: Did we forget what it means to be human?

Grassroots Film’s masterful 90-minute piece, which has been touring the U.S. and Europe in a series of screenings, has asked audiences of all different creeds to probe that question, and offers a rich contemplation of humanity through the eyes of its forgotten members.

What we see there, as Martin Luther King, Jr. said and as cited in the movie, is the fact that “we must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society.”

In a unique documentary style, the film follows in real time the adventures of a group of young men who, seeking to deepen their understanding of the human experience, set out to spend time with some of the most “unwanted” of humanity: those living on the streets of New York, a home for sick and disabled children in Peru, a group of Africans dying of AIDS, and finally, a Ghanaian leper colony.

The film’s contemplative bent is supported by a running commentary from several thinkers in various disciplines, probing at the greatest questions of life – and even questions about the questions.

Here we are faced with the reality of the individual that politicians, society, or even his or her own family has rejected as “unwanted.”

Unwanted people, evidently, are often considered not really people at all; and this makes their suffering an easy thing for us to handle.

The Human Experience re-introduces us to that outdated discomfort.

A homeless woman describes how people on the street immediately came to the rescue of some lost dogs, while leaving her in the cold.

Later, viewers are told that Angela, a six-year-old, constantly smiling streak of pink that brightens the entire movie, was maimed and nearly killed by the father who simply wanted her dead.

“Most people say, ‘Oh, they’re not human.’ Well, we’re not automatons either. We have a heart, we have blood, we have a mind, a spirit, and a soul,” declared one of the homeless of New York that the two young stars of the film encountered.

The film’s contemplation of these forgotten ones is bound up in an acknowledgement of their suffering: gone is the “just throw condoms at them” attitude towards the groaning of Africa under the AIDS epidemic.

When we suffer with a nation, as one of the interviewees of the film noted, “a great love for that nation is developed” – and we learn compassion.

Laced throughout the globe-trotting adventures is a running narrative on the family by one of the young men, Jeffrey Azize.

Jeff – who described himself as an “unexpected zygote” – told the story of how his abusive household affected him, his view of himself, of others, and of life.

His musings anchor the film’s message in the family, whose integrity determines whether individual lives and societies will stand or fall.

Jeff’s soul-searching also draws the film’s theme inward, casting light on one origin of modern man’s ill-treatment of his neighbor -uncertainty over the intrinsic value of his own life.

This, the film seems to suggest, is the key to unlocking compassion for others, and to understanding “the breathtaking reality of a new, unrepeatable, unprecedented adventure of a human life.”

“We are pro-family and pro-life, so we wanted to do a pro-life film that never mentioned the word ‘abortion,’ didn’t take a religious view, didn’t take a political view, we just wanted to be pro-life because that’s the way life should be naturally,” producer Joseph Campo told (LSN).

Grassroots Films, an independent motion picture company founded in 2001, has already completed several projects that have secured their reputation as a font of professional and thoroughly modern talent… The Human Experience breaks new ground in fighting the inhumanity of the culture of death in a way that appeals to all – religious or not.

The scope of the short film is incredibly daunting – it is essentially a documentary of the human soul – but handled masterfully, with top-notch directing and a breathtaking original score. The format and message of the film are brilliantly intertwined: the face of no well-known actor graces this film, because this film is not about famous people.

There are no scripts, because the film’s message would wither the moment it touched paper. Humanity doesn’t need makeup, several takes, cleverness or art, to be what we crave.

“The film was being written and produced as we were filming it,” said Campo. “Each experience that you see takes place in real time. We did not know the outcome of every one of these experiences. What you see when you see in the film, everything that’s in the film would really be behind the scenes of any other film.

“One of the things I said to the young men when we were filming: ‘Whatever happens, don’t shut off the cameras,'” said Campo. “And that’s what the audience gets to see.”

Campo said that one of the driving goals of the film was to make the experience “real,” – and it was for that reason, he added, that city-by-city screenings accompanied by two of the men in the film have so far been the group’s preferred distribution method.

“When the young men go to the prescreenings themselves, the audience has an opportunity to speak to the young guys in the film to answer some questions, and also to raise questions,” said Campo. “I think we’re being more effective by doing it just the way we are in this point in time.

“It’s a tremendous amount of work, but you know, it goes with the territory.” Nonetheless, he said, a movie theater distribution may be in the film’s future.

Campo said his greatest hope is to reach a secular audience – noting that reviewers at the Sedona film festival, not known for its conservative tendencies, “absolutely loved” the film.

“So that’s very important, so that people who need to see it are seeing it. But the idea of the message is to change people’s hearts and to change people’s minds,” he said.

Click here to find out more about upcoming screenings of The Human Experience,

Click here to visit Grassroots Films’ website,

[FALLS CHURCH, VA, August 26, 2009,]