The Human Experience: movie review

by Stephanie Block

Produced by Grass Roots films, “The Human Experience” explores human suffering and redemption with a true-life story. Worth watching.

I just had the pleasure of attending a screening of “The Human Experience” last night. It’s a full-length, award-winning movie produced by the Catholic production company “Grassroots Films.”

The movie opens with one of its characters – a young man who lives in a Franciscan home because his own family is so broken – musing about fundamental existential questions. What’s the meaning of his life? Why is there so much suffering? How is he expected to transcend his experiences?

Documentary-style, the young man and his brother visit several places of profound suffering. They spend a week living among the homeless on the streets of New York City. They visit a Peruvian home for abandoned and severely crippled children. Finally, they travel to an Africa, interviewing people dying of AIDS and people exiled to a leper colony.

There is no avoiding the authenticity of the pain in this film. These are not actors on the screen. And yet…and yet, the call to permit grace into these gaping sores of the flesh and the heart is universal and compelling.

The two primary characters of the film – the young man and his brother – are telling their own story. The story has been crafted into the art form of film, but it’s not a fiction and it has a pro-life, evangelical perspective. These young filmmakers are part of the John Paul II generation of Catholics, the ones who have energetically embraced his vision of a “new springtime for the Church”.

There are signs of this “springtime” everywhere. The contemporary martyrs of China, Africa, and the Middle East are its most glorious and immediate examples but even where Christendom has been dying, there are hints of green.

Ireland’s defeat of the pro-abortion Lisbon Treaty after a nationwide prayer crusade orchestrated by a couple who are in their 90s is an exhilarating model of contemporary Catholic action. The Cistercian monks of the Stift Heiligenkreuz Abbey making pop music’s Top 10 list with their CD “Chant: Music for the Soul” demonstrates wonderfully fertile ground for re-evangelization.

England’s Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor’s announcement that he is willing to go to court if necessary rather than comply with a law that places adoptive children into homosexual situations tells us that the Catholic spirit of self-sacrifice for justice is alive and kicking, even in the episcopacy.

However, the dash of cold water in the face of so much optimistic euphoria is how much ground has been lost. If current polls are accurate, American Catholics are becoming increasingly pro-abortion in their sentiments and have a decreasing grasp of fundamental religious truths.

The clerical sex scandals of the past decade have left many wary and cynical. Old patterns of governance, which swept abuses of all sorts under the rug, are slow to change. Under-catechized Catholics, not surprisingly, soak up the dominant spiritual culture and drown in it along with everyone else.

Changing that culture will take the dedicated work of well-formed Catholics, putting their talents and vision into service of something bigger than personal ambition. Movies such as The Human Experience are very promising, on so many levels.

The Human Experience movie trailer can be viewed at: Grass Roots Films .

Stephanie Block is a writer and editor of The Pepper, a publication of Los Pequenos de Cristo of New Mexico

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