Still Human is one of the most thoughtful documentaries on economic reform.
Still Human (2022) Review By Mark McPherson
Published on May 4, 2023
Rating 4 /5
How do we handle the disenfranchised? How will we help the homeless, orphans, and those who struggle with mental illnesses? Why don’t we resolve these issues with our current megacities? These are the questions posed by Still Human, a documentary about wealth disparities. While such a film’s messaging could falter, the clinical approach to this material makes this a far more insightful picture.
Director David Albert Habif tries to offer an all-encompassing film on the topic of population disparity in a simplified and thoughtful manner. The film compares two parts of the globe: Los Angeles and Mumbai. The population, economics, and social policies of both cities are considered and compared as they face different problems with the same critical conclusion. The answer is not the simple one people want of population control or the doomer take on restricting birth rates. The generational issues of China have proven that isn’t an effective policy. Reform is needed, but this film doesn’t boil it down to these places of economic disparities requiring more money. The film goes out of its way to showcase how unloading all the money in the world wouldn’t rectify all of Mumbai’s problems when considering the density of issues regarding homelessness and persecution.
The target more or less becomes capitalism. Without using the big C word or the bigger S word (socialism), the film makes its case for why the current economic model is not working. After all, if the top cities in the world have so much wealth, why do they have homelessness? Why are there starving people? Shouldn’t that wealth be used to ensure that others do not suffer? Cases are made for why investing in various people who have been turned away from help can improve society overall. If everybody is cared for, there’s a greater benefit for cities where orphans can grow up to improve the world rather than despising every aspect they refuse to contribute.
The quality of the film is mixed in terms of the interviews recorded and the animations provided. The interviews have varying microphone qualities but are never so poorly documented that you struggle to understand. The interview with economist Daron Acemoglu comes through fairly clearly and it’s a good thing since he has perhaps the strongest passages in the picture. The animations used to paint a clearer picture of data range from simplistic 2D animation one would find in a Powerpoint presentation and elaborate 3D displays that feel right at home in a higher-budgeted documentary. While the designs are not as robust, they communicate the message effectively. There’s almost a charm to keeping these aspects simplistic, where the thoughts were clearly on the message more than the visual flair of coins falling on a country.
Still Human is one of the most thoughtful documentaries on economic reform. It’s not defeatist but also not apologetic with the state of the world. It's frank with its interviewees but also tactile in approaching this subject so that there is just as much reason as there is heart to this ordeal. It’s also refreshing that a film like this never treads on safe ground when overlooking the entire economic landscape. If we as a species are serious about making the world a better place, this picture shows how we can make a dent so that even preteens can grasp it. You shouldn’t need an economist to tell you it’s a good thing to help the homeless, but this film still gives you a few anyway, making for the most robust case of reform.
Mark has been a professional film critic for over five years and a film lover all his life.