Life in a Day, 2011.
Directed by Kevin Macdonald.
Produced by Ridley Scott.
A documentary compiled from thousands of hours of footage by YouTube users that tells the story of a single day on earth.
Life in a Day is the result of director Kevin MacDonald’s plea to the YouTube community to record one day of their lives – July 24th, 2010 – with the ultimate aim of patching them all together. The call was heard, and 80,000 videos were submitted for selection, totalling 4,500 hours of raw footage. At this point it is compulsory to give mad props to the editor – Joe Walker.
The footage was eventually cut down to the 90 minute feature that is garnering raves from reviewers and audiences for it’s moving and poignant scenes harnessed from everyday life, by everyday people. Encompassing the most mundane daily activities to the most exhilirating and saddest experiences, the film operates with a kind of rhythm that can change mood on a dime, and can elicit a broad smile as quickly as it can have the viewer choking back the tears.
The film is broken up by a few, scattered segments that take acts such as making breakfast or washing into the realm of universal experience and identification. These segments work beautifully to ground the film as a shared experience whilst also showcasing the individuality of each person and their contribution. It offers a reminder that the world is always turning and is home to billions of stories and aspirations. Every video has a different motivation, story and meaning which all tie together to represent the countless moods and hopes that make up any person.
Life in a Day does not attempt, however, to foster a sense of awe and union without showing life in it’s entirety which, oftentimes, can be cruel, bigoted and numbing. A man, when asked what he feared the most, replied ‘Homosexuality. It is a disease.’ Whilst others chose, amongst other things; growing up, losing the world to global warming, god, politics, not returning home safely, not having a child, going bald, themselves, loneliness, death and god not existing. And, when asked what they loved the most, the replies included (among the obvious); football, a horse, god again, a refrigerator and a cat.
The film perfectly frames and crystallises moments that would have been mundane, were it not for the express intent of filming them in order to show the true marvel of life in action. There are plenty of moments of brutality that shock the viewer back into realising the fragility of life and our influence on other life on the planet.
One particularly distressing scene sees a cow about to be put to death with a bolt gun. It is hard to watch as the tool is lifted and the cow flops to the floor, taking a long time to die. It is a powerful image of life as a commodity and an example of how its intrinsic value is too often forgotten and marginalised. As well as underlining the fact that we sometimes forget that we are part of life, not a force above it, it also allows for reflection alongside the more uplifting moments and brings home the contradictory, confusing nature of life itself.
The last segment is perhaps one of the most touching of the film. A young woman sits in her car and expresses fears that would resonate with any person on the planet. She remarks that she had been waiting all day for something amazing to happen but instead she has had to work and now finds herself alone, a few minutes before midnight, to make her submission:
“All day I was waiting for something amazing to happen but the truth is – it doesn’t always happen. I want people to know that I’m here. I don’t want to cease to exist. I think I’m a normal girl, normal life, with nothing interesting to know about, but I want to be. Although nothing great happened today, I feel tonight that something great happened.”
With her lonely admission, as one amongst 80,000, this girl admitted the deepest of human fears and submitted what her day had been for all to see. Whilst she was crying alone in her car, a man was cycling around the world to try and unite Korea, a baby giraffe was born, hundreds of Chinese lanterns were released, a couple were being married in Vegas by Elvis and billions and billions of other lives were unfolding, starting and ending. And this film only captured one day of it.
Life in a Day premiered at Sundance 2011 and was simultaneously broadcast around the world on YouTube. It hits North American cinemas on July 24th with a UK release to be confirmed.