“Life in a Day:” Mankind in the Raw

Lauren Lola

On Jan. 27, after six months of compiling and editing, Scottish director Kevin Macdonald premiered his documentary, “Life in a Day,” not only to the attendees of the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, but to the entire world through YouTube.

The 95-minute film strings together footage submitted by YouTube users from all over the world that were all filmed on the same day, July 24, 2010.

Macdonald made the announcement earlier that month, encouraging people to submit videos filmed on the designated day for this very original project. His objective: To capture moments in a single day in this lifetime for the generations to come.

The response to the call for videos was more than Macdonald would have ever expected. 4,500 hours of about 80,000 entries from 192 countries were submitted, for he and producer Ridley Scott to go through and choose from.

In life, one will face happy moments and sad moments, calm moments and possibly violent moments. In “Life in a Day,” moments like that are captured under a short period of an hour and a half rather than a lifetime.

Through wobbly cameras and semi-low quality footage, people from all over the world appeared on the silver screen to tell their story, such as a man from Korea who has been traveling all over the world by bike for over nine years, a man admitting to a friend of his over the phone that he has a boyfriend, a young photojournalist from Afghanistan showing a side of the country that’s not normally seen, and even a Japanese man caring for his son, eight months after the passing of his wife.

Moments both big and small were all incorporated into the film, from a woman reminiscing on how plain her life is, to a wedding celebration in the Philippines; from a teenage boy’s first time shaving, to an eyewitness’s experience with the Love Parade stampede in Germany.

Aside from the raw recordings of moments from everyday life, it would have been wise for Macdonald to have issued a warning about a few graphic moments. The “life” in “Life in a Day” took a literal sense when a scene showed a giraffe giving birth and another scene where a father-to-be faints while filming a C-section being performed on his wife.

Some of the more controversial content included a woman admitting that she carries a gun with her everywhere, a man stealing from a local grocery store without being caught, and, most shocking of all, the slaughtering of a cow. It’s understandable that Macdonald wanted to add in as many moments throughout the day to bring out the full context of the film, but if anything, he should have kept in mind as to who he would be addressing as his audience.

Overall though, “Life in a Day” was a simple idea that blossomed into something that goes beyond the average documentary. No scripts were memorized as various faces and settings danced across the screen, enlightening the audience with who these individuals were on a summer day in 2010. It just goes to show that sometimes it doesn’t take a whole camera and special effects crew to make a great film.

If you missed the YouTube streaming of “Life in a Day,” do not panic. Prior to the film being shown at Sundance, National Geographic Films announced that they picked up the distribution rights to the film and expect the film to be released in theaters on July 24, the one-year anniversary since the clips in the film were shot.