Documentary shows reality in a dayBy Adam Greene | 09/11/2012 11:00pm
Some of the greatest treasures in life can be unearthed purely by accident. This is the way I happened to stumble upon one of the most inspirational films I have ever seen. One night, I happened to be sifting through the vast cinematic archive known as Netflix, absent-mindedly clicking through the endless categories, when I struck a gold mine disguised as a documentary.
“Life in a Day” is not your average documentary, to say the least. It is a compilation of video clips submitted by ordinary people all across the world who were asked to film their daily routines on a single, randomly chosen day – July 24, 2010. There were over 80,000 videos sent to YouTube and over 4,500 hours worth of raw footage containing everything from a young boy learning how to shave to an older man in a hospital bed, recovering from a major open-heart surgery.
“Life in a Day” is the product of an unusual partnership between YouTube and filmmaker Ridley Scott, but the footage was sorted, trimmed and pieced together by the film’s editor, Joe Walker.
The remarkable thing about this 90-minute movie is its unexpected profundity, hovering slightly beneath the surface of the mundane activities of a seemingly narcissistic world. The aim of the filmmakers was to tell the story of a planet, but the results were far more meaningful than anyone had predicted.
Although much of the film’s introductory scenes consist of people being filmed waking up, brushing their teeth, and even shots of nothing but their own two feet walking, it is interspersed with heartfelt personal moments: a mother cradling her newborn child, a man from the Middle East describing his role as both a father and a mother to his several motherless children in a destitute situation, a young gay man coming out to his grandmother on the phone (and her unconditional love and acceptance), a woman trying to explain cancer to her young son. Some of the people are only seen once, their stories never to be finished or heard of again; others are followed throughout the entire film, such as a Korean man traveling around the world by bicycle for no particular reason.
I think what makes this documentary so unique is that it offers so many different perspectives of life, values, morals and beliefs. There are sections of the film devoted to people from all corners of the world explaining their inner hopes, dreams and fears; people who have found true love and others who haven’t; people who are ultimately satisfied with their lives; and those who suffer from the thought of a meaningless existence. “Life in a Day” is really just a cinematic collage of people’s lives, and that is what is so beautiful about it, I think. You can watch it and think of it as nothing more than that, or you can see what you want to see and take away a different meaning from it.
For me, “Life in a Day” revealed that life is so simple and complex all at once, and so very, very short. There was a scene near the end of the documentary that was exceptionally awe-inspiring to me. It was just of a group of people lighting paper lanterns and sending them up into the sky, but caught up in the moment, it appeared to resonate with a deeper meaning, and it was breathtaking. I would highly recommend this documentary if you’re feeling blue or downtrodden; in its own strange way, “Life in a Day” is uplifting.