Who am I? Who is Man? Why do we search for meaning? All these questions were asked by a band of brothers who traveled to various parts of the world to find answers. Their quest landed them living in cardboard boxes, in orphanages half way around the world, and even in camps filled with lepers.
Their experiences are captured in the film, "The Human Experience."
"We wanted to make a film that was really going to emphasize the beauty of life. We wanted to talk about it purely being a gift and that each one of us should embrace it. And we thought one of the best ways to do that would be to live through other people's experiences," Michael Campo, associate producer and writer of the documentary, told The Christian Post.
The timeless theme of life and its meaning presents itself once again in this 90-minute documentary. The film originally opened in select theaters April 2007. Since then, participants say the response has been outstanding. Jeffrey Azize, the lead protagonist in the film, said he never planned to be a part of the project, but quickly jumped on board.
"I was young and adventurous, so I said 'yea, why not.' I thought this would be a great way to change people's lives through film," he commented.
Azize, who grew up in an abusive home where his dad was an alcoholic and drug addict, allowed cameras to follow the journey for knowledge.
He says in the film, "You learn a lot when you travel; you learn how people live; everyone survives differently. When you go somewhere out of your own comfort zone, out of your own realm and you enter someone else's, that's learning."
Starting out in the concrete jungle – New York City – Azize and his brother, Cliff, experienced what it's like to live on the streets like thousands of homeless people do in the city everyday. Sleeping on boxes, begging for food, roaming the streets to keep warm – this was their life.
"God has a purpose for us all," one homeless man notably told Azize in the film. "If He didn't have a purpose for me I would have been gone a long time ago. God for some reason has something for me to do. I look around and see people in wheel chairs and that are sick. [There's] a lot of people more worse off than I am."
After living on the streets during one of New York's coldest winters, the crew decided to head to South America, where they found the people the homeless man spoke of – people in wheel chairs, with no legs, or arms.
Children's House in Lima, Peru, is a safe haven for abandoned and sick children whose parents are unable to further care for them. This is destination two for the Azize brothers.
Dr. Tony Lazzara, director of the Children's House and former doctor at Emory University, quit his practice to start the Children's House.
"Anybody can do what I was doing at Emory. Not many people would [be] doing what needed to be done in places like India," he says in the film. "If I didn't do it I would regret it for the rest of my life."
He was inspired by a trip he and his colleagues took to Calcutta, India, where he saw children mutilated by parents to become beggars in the street.
The film explores the various suffering that the orphaned children face due to their handicaps. The Azize brothers assist in everyday tasks that they sometimes take for granted.
As their travels continue, the situations become harder, but their hearts grow fonder of their fellow man and woman. The last stop on the brothers' journey is a camp of lepers who offered one answer to their questions on life. In Ghana, Africa, they were greeted with smiles and welcomed with handshakes by outcasts of the community. These lepers sat and talked with the brothers about their purpose and motivation.
"In our culture life is always a treasure. You always find something or someone to lean on and fill fulfilled," one of the lepers says in the camp.
The lepers suffer through the loss of limbs and sight and face death everyday. Still, they find purpose in their lives. When one man was asked how he deals with facing death he responded, "The first thing I do is thank God. If he makes me wake up today, God has something for me to do."
The Azize brothers and those involved in the film had such great lessons to take back to their hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Campo reflected, "They believe in God and have this tremendous amount of faith for Him and each other. Over there, the Gospel is not preached, it's lived."
"What we've learned from this film is that people everywhere are searching, asking what is life all about. I think that everyone is searching for the basics, and what it all boils down to is our personal relationship with God," Campo noted.
Although the film is no longer showing in theaters, the DVD release is forthcoming.