Yann Artus-Bertrand: We don´t want to believe in what we already know

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This French director is an extraordinary man. Since his childhood he was interested in wild life animals and nature. At the end of 60.´s he established a reservation in central France and then moved along with his wife to Kenya, where he lived for three years. He observed daily a lion´s family and took pictures from air balloons. Wildlife hit him deeply and he became a specialist in making photos from hot-air balloon. After returning to France he worked on various projects in various artistic areas ranging from documentary films to photographs .It was probably a look at our Planet from the balloon and seeing it´s real conditions which led him to establish a databank amassing more than half a millions of aerial photos from 100 of countries depicting and showing the real state of Mother Earth. He writes and publishes books, organized an exhibition of posters called Earth from above which visited 110 cities and was seen by over 120 million visitors. Names of his film documents such as Planet Ocean, Human, A Thirsty World show that his worries and interest in saving our planet are genuine. In order to get his message among as many people as possible he gave up all his royalties from the movie Home and put it free onto internet and to the movies all over the world. Surprisingly England and America refused to show the movie so far because it was for free so he went as far as renting a cinema in America by himself, paying 10 000 dollars from his own pockets and showing it to people.


We watched his film Home on Zlín Film Festival and it was jaw dropping experience not only to see such beautiful pictures but sadly also to see the devastation of the Earth in the name of greediness and money. It started piles of questions in our heads so we contacted Mr. Bertrand immediately using the address from his website.

Yann Arthus Bertrand queensland australie

How did you get into taking pictures from hot-air balloons, it´s not very common is it?

When I lived with my wife in Kenya´s reservation Masai Mara I learnt how to pilot these balloons and by taking tourists I earned money for living and for my projects. More than two years we daily observed the lion´s family and I couldn´t describe by words what I have seen and felt so the photos were the best option and tool.

Yann Arthus Bertrand HomeWas it risky to lean out of the balloons and planes in order to get the best possible shot? Did you have a close shame?

Once I escaped by a whisker when there was a Hurricane Kathryn around and our helicopter was falling down without control and we were saved by falling to the roof of flooded house which absorbed the shock. It was a miracle pilot and I stayed alive.

Firstly you worked as assistant director and then you started taking pictures and now you make documentaries. Is there big difference for you when you catch the nature images different way?

For me, it´s not any difference. When I take pictures I can be there just myself while during shooting I have a crew around me. I think I have the same feeling for the good picture in both professions and also I know what is important to look at and what is not.

We really loved your movie Home. Was it your own initiative for which you looked for international co-operation, or you were asked, say by UNESCO, to lead and run such mammoth project?

I was directly inspired by documentary made by Al Gore called An Inconvenient Truth, to which I tried to help with screening in France. I showed it to some politicians who, unlike French public, don´t take climate changes seriously and take it very lightly. It helped since film is a powerful media and I said to myself that I could make similar project which was later called Home. I got a support from some big companies such as fashion mogul PPR.

What was the response for this project?

I think good one by correct people. It didn´t go down well with some politicians since they have no heart and at home I was often in conflict with ecological activists. I think it is better that people around the world could see my work, get my message and watch the film thanks to the help of these companies and sponsors which wouldn´t happen if I was questioning too closely the credentials of those sponsors. Sometimes the greens are not close enough to reality of the world´s economy. I know it is not very easy to always hold your principles and still gets things done. I can do anything and still be called hypocrite, some French press call me an “ idiot”.

I made film Home for nothing and put it on internet to get a message among people.

Did you manage to get the film Home into entire world?

It had its premiere in 100 countries of the world and it was showed in 33 languages and on 65 TV channels in countries such as Burkina Faso, Nepal, Argentina, Russia, Chinas. You wouldn´t believe that countries like Great Britain and USA refused to show it in cinemas., because it was available for free. I have no idea why, and I didn´t break it to BBC who refused it, too. I had to organize and pay myself for renting a cinema in New York and that helped to get it into distribution. I got lots of angry letters calling me a liar since I said the evolution on the Earth lasted billion years why they said God has done it in seven days. All these letters were from USA

Yann Arthus Bertrand 2You like nature and animals since childhood. When did you find that burning desire, the urge to make public finally take notice about the state of our planet?

In 1992 there was a summit about our Earth in Rio. I have heard there for the first time words like global warming, climate changes and it made me give my profession a good cause. I don´t like the fact that 20% of world population consumes 80% of our sources and that ¾ of fishing resorts are exhausted. About billion people don´t have access to healthy drinking water, it really makes me sad and uneasy. I think that at present time no one wants to believe what we already know about the state of our planet. Everybody knows it must come inevitably but refuse to believe it.

Do you take this film Home as warning wake- up call against ocean pollution, knocking down the rain forests, pollution of the air etc or it also has some deep, let´s say, human underlined idea?

We should learn that planet will survive us, life will survive us. We should try to save humanity. I love my life and we must learn to love people who live with us, we must love our Planet Earth in order to survive. No one is an environmentalist by birth. It´s learning process, our life and travelling that will wake us up. When I was preparing my book Earth from above, I rented my flat in order to get money for printing it. For selling my previous books I was buying air tickets. I made the whole movie Home for free, out it on internet for free. That is my contribution to saving our planet.

When you looked at the Earth from above and you saw many countries of the world, was it different feeling that to walk on it? Did you feel like a God or astronaut from another planet?

From the air we can see the world in different view, there are no borders. Nothing is isolated from other one, all is connected.

Thank you very much

Vítek Formánek and Eva Csölleová

Foto: Yann Arthus Bertrand, Imdb.com