What does it mean to be human?

HUMAN: The MovieFilmmaker and artist Yann Arthus-Bertrand spent three years collecting real life stories from 2,000 women and men in 60 countries.

Now the first volume of his trilogy, “HUMAN The Movie,” will be shown at NIU at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct, 26, as part of NIU’s 2015-2017 Common Reading Experience. The event will take place in the Carl Sandburg Auditorium of the Holmes Student Center, and opportunities for discussion and reflection will follow.

“Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson, raises questions about justice in the U.S. legal system, prison conditions, poverty, race and mental illness. “HUMAN The Movie” includes brief interviews with Stevenson as well as with a prisoner who is serving a life sentence for murder. His four-minute interview describes how he came to understand the meaning of love and forgiveness from the mother/grandmother of those he murdered.

Other topics treated in Volume I are women, work and poverty.

Before and after the movie showing, students, faculty, staff and community members will have an opportunity to donate a book to the Storybook Project. The book drive continues until Friday, Oct. 30.

After the movie, opportunities will be given to participate in civic reflection small groups led by staff and students trained in discussion facilitation.

Students who have seen parts of “HUMAN The Movie” have found that it has influenced their views on what it means to be human on a local, national and global scale.

NIU senior journalism major Ericka Wilson saw excerpts from “HUMAN The Movie” shortly after returning from the “Justice or Else” rally celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March in Washington, D.C. earlier this month.

Book cover of “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson“Like Stevenson, I believe that the opposite of poverty is not wealth, but justice,” Wilson said. “I am looking forward to helping bring about justice one day, and I hope the students, faculty and staff of NIU will be moved to join me after watching the video and reading ‘Just Mercy.’ ”

Fourth-year electrical engineering major Alexis Massman has viewed the entire Volume One of “HUMAN The Movie.”

“This film will not only impact the way you see dehumanization within the prison system but also within our culture as a whole,” she said. “People are undervalued daily based on their lifestyle choices, gender, career options, and socioeconomic standing. It’s crazy to think that we all love differently and live under different circumstances, yet at the end of the day, we are all nothing more than human.”

Second-year pre-physical therapy major Jyairee Williams also has seen portions of “HUMAN The Movie.”

“The video really impacted me because I know first-hand how it feels to see someone close to you incarcerated and treated unfairly,” she said.

“The movie is so powerful that it changes how you view people in the prison system.  We often forget that those who are in jail are humans just like us,” she added. “Watching this movie will change your entire mindset about those who are incarcerated. It makes you want to do everything you can to help those who do not have opportunities to help themselves.”

NIU junior accountancy major Corey Meredith said the movie brings people together.

“Everyone is different. A lot of times, people tend to only focus on those differences,” he said. “Ultimately we are all connected, we are all human.  Imagine the impact a single community could have if everyone put aside their differences and worked together to end the injustices of the world.”

For more information on this free event, call (815) 753-0028 or email fyse@niu.edu.

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