Life in a day

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 August, 2011, 12:00am

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Director: Kevin Macdonald
Category: IIA (various languages)

For a film that purports to be a 'historic global experiment' featuring 'the most compelling and distinctive footage' about lives being lived in 24 hours, on July 24, 2010, Life in a Day is ironically best understood in a snippet of the monologue of a woman sitting in an unmoving car, in which she confesses to having experienced a day when 'nothing really happened'. Talking to the camera, she nearly breaks down, admitting how she fears she might not be 'interesting enough'. 'I want people to know I'm here - I don't want to cease to exist!'

Her plea for recognition reveals the raison d'etre of Life in a Day. A project initiated by YouTube, this film is a collage of some of 80,000 pieces sent in by people from 192 countries.

Admittedly, producer Ridley Scott and director Kevin Macdonald have done a technically masterful job of splicing what they see as the best bits together, the result being a tone-poem that never sags in its momentum, showing the united colours of humankind brought together by the common needs and fears that define the loose themes that provide the film with what could be called a framework.

What's disturbing, however, is why some of these amateur filmmakers feel they should record their needs and fears in the way they have done in the snippets shown here.

While Life in a Day is built on what appears to be a benign premise, it only serves to reveal the more worrying aspects within the psyche of the look-at-me, YouTube/Facebook generation for whom the only life with meaning is that lived by oneself, as people turn inwards, directing the camera at themselves in an attempt to mark their own mundane existences for posterity - which explains why Macdonald could find so many images of banal routines with which to construct the rhythmic segments about eating, walking, buying, blabbering and so on.

While Life in a Day does contain sequences that radiate a person's genuine pathos about the state of the world - usually when the filmmakers show lives beyond their own, as when an Afghani photojournalist's footage of a vibrant Kabul devoid of the lawlessness that Western audiences associate with the city, or the scenes featuring an Indian man making do with his life as a guest worker in Dubai, a group of Ukrainian herders (above) at work, or a Ugandan couple's candid enactment of a sexist greeting ritual - their weight is swiftly undermined by more images of banality, from which Macdonald's edit could only draw vague meanings.

Is Life in a Day intended to be a raw version of the routines of human existence or designed as something more dramatic, as suggested by the inclusion of footage of the deadly crush at the Love Parade in Duisburg on that day?

However good to look at, Life in a Day merely fosters a false sense of global unity and self-importance.

Life in a Day opens today