LIFE IN A DAY
A documentary compiled from 4,500 hours of footage shot in a single day, 24 July, 2010, by people all over the world and submitted on YouTube. Footage in the film includes contributions from 14 Australians.
Review by Louise Keller:
There's a myriad of emotions to be had watching this unique fly-on-the-wall glimpse of life in a single day as experience by many people. The film is a complex and intricate mesh of videos submitted to YouTube by people from 192 countries. These are woven together into a mosaic by an editing process that must have been as exacting as brain surgery. Sometimes it soars, sometimes it flops. Worse still, it gets boring. Our fascination lies in the diversity of experience as well as the unexpected that is breathtakingly juxtaposed. From the simple to the complex, the sublime to the ridiculous and the heartfelt and genuine, directors Kevin Macdonald and editor Joe Walker have captured a richness that represents a fascinating slice of life.
There's the birth of a giraffe, the slaughter of a cow, date night on Skype, a Korean man cycling around the world wanting to make a difference and a husband who claims to have no fear since the advent of his wife developing cancer. In most instances, it is a case of pictures painting thousands of words - be it the breaking of dawn with an extraordinary sunrise, crumpled sleepy faces, roosters crowing, water and its uses (washing, cleaning teeth, baby elephants playing), toast popping, milking goats or a heart operation patient talking about his first bowel motion. The cultures are diverse and there are all sorts of answers to questions posed or just simple observation on our part. What do people have in their pockets, for example? The most interesting is the man whose pocket houses nothing. From the materialistic to the ethereal, we traverse continents, socio-economic borders and observe human behaviour.
I smiled when the man declared his love for his cat, I looked away when the stun-gun brought blood and the knife slit the cow's throat, I was moved when the New York homosexual telephoned his grandmother to confide his sexual preferences. There's a sense of freedom as a man dives into a pool, a skydiver melts into the clouds and a baby sleeps next to its mother. Although time lapse photography and music by Harry Gregson-Williams and Matthew Herbert tie everything together, it is often not enough. The black and white footage of a young American woman before the stroke of midnight on July 24, 2010, whose declaration of disappointment that her day did not reach extraordinary peaks is something to which everyone can possibly relate.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If you have ever sat in a train as it sped through suburbs and caught glimpses of houses, backyards, apartment blocks, parks, fields, forests and lakes, cows, horses and goats, along valleys overlooked by mountains ... then you have some idea of how Life in a Day looks like. Some of it is intriguing and you wish the train could stop, some of it is banal, some of it is beautiful and some it is dull. Yes, there is a cumulative effect of so many snapshots of life on earth, but it isn't meaningful so much as jumbled.
A film of rushes, Life in a Day is a jumble that the filmmakers have tried to organise. So we begin before dawn on July 24, 2010, and a variety of waking/breakfast footage is edited into a montage that is neither surprising nor particularly enlightening.
As the day wears on, we cut from India to Afghanistan to America to Australia, until we catch up with a Korean cyclist travelling the globe - has been for years. He speaks gently (and has someone else shoot the footage) as he treks from place to place. As we return to him along his way, he becomes the string that attempts to tie together and connect the world for us, but while it's pleasant enough, it isn't strong enough.
There are some moments, though, that give us pause: the acutely relevant and timely footage of a slaughterhouse somewhere as a beast is stunned (twice) before its throat is cut. An echo, perhaps of that iconic doco about this bad world, Mondo Cane. Another is a poignant confession of worthlessness by a teenage girl at the end. A couple of other clips engage us, but what with an inescapably uneven quality of work, and the fleeting encounters we have with the subjects, the film splinters into a thousand pieces and defies being fashioned into a single trunk.
That wouldn't matter if the edict had been to record a short introduction to the subject and their family and friends, perhaps in the context of their specific activities on that day. Even briefly, people are fascinating when we give them an opportunity to reveal themselves and we just listen.
Perhaps it was long night of genial conversation about films and the new online world of YouTube over a few bottles of wine that started it. Hey, let's get lots of people around the world to make a home video for YouTube and we cut it together - all glued by the fact that it's shot on one particular day. A big edit job, but we overlay a score to carry it (turns out to be too insistent, like an emotional bully) and hey presto, a feature length movie. Great idea, but not great cinema; it just doesn't have the scale. Maybe it works better on TV.
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LIFE IN A DAY (PG)
CAST: User generated documentary
DIRECTOR: Kevin Macdonald
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 1, 2011