Monday, August 13, 2012


Life in a Day
January 27, 2011 (Sundance Film Festival)
95 min
United States / United Kingdom

Directed by Kevin Macdonald

In many ways "Life in a Day" is what the medium of film was created for in the first place: to bring the world to people who could not go there themselves. This massive project is an astounding achievement that we should all see in our lives.

I had been anticipating to fully watch “Life in a Day” since I saw the trailer last summer. The concept alone of a crowdsourced documentary made up of footage from people in 192 nations captured my attention and demanded to be seen. In this 21st Century uploading our home movies to YouTube is common, accepted, and a way of life. It’s not so much a construction as it is an inevitable compilation. It has been in the making ever since humanity has been in the making.

“Life in a Day” was a massive undertaking. The world was invited to film their lives on July 24, 2010 and then send their videos in for the project. The producers received 80,000 uploaded videos from all over the globe totaling some 4,500 hours of a single 24 hour period on Earth. The final product is just over 90 minutes, that’s a shooting ratio of 2,866:1 (and I thought “Apocalypse Now” had a staggering amount with 80:1). I was exclaiming to a fellow film student about how just one editor (Joe Walker) was listed in the credits. She said there must have been a crew of assistant editors. I wonder. In any case this has to be one of the most remarkable achievements in editing since, well, Dziga Vertov tore it up in 1929 for “Man with a Movie Camera.”

The commonalities and differences are chopped together in a pace that feels like patchwork. While some moments are montages with a kinetic tempo to lose ourselves in the seconds, other scenes take minutes to forfeit a slice of real life for our dissection.

So many of the volunteered subjects deserve a feature-length documentary of their very own. I suppose it is benevolent to believe everyone deserves to be the subject of one. I remember an Army ad that used to air during Channel One news in middle school. “If someone made a movie of your life, would anyone want to watch it?” The rough voice questioned my adolescent being. We all have something worth documenting and we all have one day at a time to prove so. It is not every day that such an opportunity presents itself, certainly not on such a large scale as this project.

A widower Japanese father wakes his son up in the morning. They greet mother (in a photograph) and light some incense on her behalf. Another dad on the other side of the world documents his teenage son’s first shave. A husband reveals he fears nothing since his wife has cancer. An earnest videographer with a weak stomach is about to become the world’s newest father but passes out while filming the birth. Cheerleaders. We see extreme poverty in the Middle East where fourteen people sleep under one small roof. The patriarch has to keep his mentally retarded son tied up outside while he works during the day. On the other end of the spectrum of prosperity we only need to think back a few minutes when a proud American man was revving the engine of his Lamborghini for the entire world to hear. Women (in a land I couldn’t pinpoint) work hard in the garden carrying baskets on their heads. One stops to talk, “God will not forget us. He created us.” I found it ironic that technology is more accessible and distributable throughout the world than many of life’s necessities. Not everyone has enough food, but everyone has a camera (or at least a friend with one).

When I remember the events and the people in this video record and realize this is happening every day, I am quietly awed. This is a most significant documentary, a unique experience by the world and for the world. Fittingly, "Life in a Day" is available on YouTube for free.


CONTENT: some graphic and disturbing imagery, language

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