Boris Benjamin Bertram’s The Human Shelter

Watch the documentary, which spans cultures and continents looking for moments when shelter becomes home, plus a Q&A with the filmmaker.
The Human Shelter is produced by Creative Alliance and Good Company Pictures, and is supported by IKEA.

Today, due to ongoing hostilities, political oppression, and climate change, at least 79.5 million individuals are seeking a new beginning after being forcibly displaced from their homes and nations. Among them, nearly 26 million have been officially designated refugees, and half are under the age of 18.

The Better Shelter, a prefabricated lightweight structure, was designed in partnership with the IKEA Foundation and adopted by many non-governmental agencies, including the United Nations, to be used in refugee emergencies throughout the world. The temporary structure was a central element in Insecurities: Tracing Displacement and Shelter, an exhibition shown at MoMA in 2016, which examined how geographies, borders, and camps indelibly reconfigure citizenship and the landscape. Danish filmmaker Boris Benjamin Bertram documented the exhibition from its installation in the gallery to the public opening. He then set out to record how people interface with conflict in various contexts around the world. What transpired is a film that not only asks, “What makes a home?” but also, crucially, “When does shelter become home?”

Filmed on four continents, The Human Shelter is an exploration of what it means to be human. From a refugee camp in Mosul, Iraq, to a floating community on a lagoon in Lagos, Nigeria, to a projected habitat on Mars, the film brings together contrasting viewpoints that converge on our own fragility on this ever-changing planet we call home.

The Q&A below, between filmmaker Boris Benjamin Bertram and MoMA curator Sean Anderson, was originally streamed live, exclusively for MoMA members, on August 20, 2020. To join future digital programs like this, become an Explore member today.

Boris Benjamin Bertram is an award-winning film director based in Copenhagen. His new film Photographer of War has just been released in the United States. He is currently collaborating with the artist Taryn Simon on a film about public mourning, based on her 2016 work An Occupation of Loss.

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