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Life in a Day | Review

Everyday Filmmakers of the World Band Together

Everybody records everything. Every moment captured, commented on, archived. With this trend comes certain consequences. If every one creates, who consumes? Is the purported endgame even consumption or is creation now the end in itself? These questions are brought to their logical conclusion in Life in a Day, a doc signed by Kevin Macdonald, sponsored by YouTube, executive produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, but belonging to the documenters of the world who shared themselves.

On the 24th of July 2010, 4500 hours of footage were compiled from 80,000 submissions originating from 140 nations. This was whittled down to just under ninety-five minutes, and serves as a time capsule to show future generations what that day was like around the world. Three questions were asked: What is in your pocket? What do you love? and What do you fear? Of those hundreds of hours of footage, editor Joe Walker plucked moments and weaved together a narrative that follows people through that day in July, through their self-discovery.

The overarching theme that binds these disparate fragments together is family. Those who decided to share their lives almost all did so through their children’s eyes, or their spouse, or their best friend. A teenage boy’s first shave in the US, the morning wake up routine with a four-year-old in China, the instances captured and included display the beauty in the quotidian and of familial love.

In one scene, a mother consoles her son about her cancer, asking him to be strong and mature. Her poise, her ability to put her child first in the wake of her own illness is inspiring and touching; her husband looks on, holding the camera at arm’s length, silently supporting them both. Later, once their son is asleep, the husband and wife are left alone in their bedroom. She shows the camera the scars that line her back, the physical evidence of her suffering. Again stoic and supportive, she asks her husband if he is afraid to lose her. He confesses that he was once scared, the first time she was diagnosed with cancer, but now that he has already been through the process and is in it again, he fears nothing and accepts whatever will come.

Some scenes, like the one just mentioned, are threaded through the film, and come to stand in for a narrator; with so much change from scene to scene, country to country, any familiarity is welcomed. Another recurring scene follows a South Korean man who has been biking around the world for nine years, not even close to finished with his quest. No matter where he is in the world, his mind drifts back home, to the estrangement of the North from the South, to his desire to have unity and peace in his country. Perhaps he continues to search for a peace he is unable to find at home.

The danger with this approach, this collage of disjointed narratives, is that the footage can take on different, possibly unintended meanings. At times, what could be powerful and poignant comes across as gimmicky and manipulative. In the ‘what do you fear?’ section especially the film begins to preach, to distort the meaning of images in their juxtaposition with others. An anthemic score changes the weight of a scene and gives it undue gravitas, overstating its case. However, this portion of the film is a rare misstep and the editing is consistently motivated and often moving.

Life in a Day is made up of its edits, of the editor and co-directors Kevin MacDonald and Joseph Michael making decisions to include footage that shows a day that is varied, global, chockfull of minutes worth savoring. Rarely do people attempt to capture the extraordinary, the times that seldom come and are always remembered. Instead, the film gleaned from the footage shows the everyday, the simple, personal moments that make up a day in the life.

Rating 3.5 stars

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Jesse Klein (MFA in Film and Video Production from The University of Texas at Austin) is a Montreal-born filmmaker and writer. His first feature film, Shadowboxing, (RVCQ '10, Lone Star Film Festival '10) . As well as contributing to IONCINEMA, he is the senior contributor to This Recording and writes for ION Magazine and Hammer to Nail. Top Films From Contemporary Film Auteurs: Almodóvar (All About My Mother), Coen Bros. (Fargo), Dardenne Bros. (Rosetta), Haneke (The White Ribbon), Hsiao-Hsien (Flowers of Shanghai), Kar-wai (In The Mood For Love), Kiarostami (Close-Up), Lynch (Blue Velvet), Tarantino (Jackie Brown), Van Sant (To Die For), von Trier (Breaking The Waves)

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