Do you like watching home videos?
That is the question you may well ask before paying your money to watch Life In A Day, a documentary made by hundreds of ordinary people, all revealing personal extracts from a day in their life. That day is July 24th 2010. The idea was that people uploaded videos that they had shot during the day and the film would be constructed from a selection of them. In the end over 80,000 clips were provided to the filmmakers, who then had to decide what to include in the finished production and, of course, what to ignore (or keep in storage for the DVD extras, one assumes) from the thousands of hours of footage. But is the finished result worth your time? The answer is a decided yes because Life In A Day offers a fascinating look at the human spirit and the juxtaposition of the clips offers a strange coherence that could not originally have been anticipated by the people who were involved in their creation.
So for just over an hour and a half you will get to see everything from the exciting to the mundane from all around the globe. The eclectic bunch of clips have a variety of perspectives – from the amusement of a child being tickled, a first shave, a gay man coming out to his grandmother, a globetrotting cyclist – and many, many aspects of everyday living. Balance is maintained between the banal and the quirky, the tender and the tragic. There are some laugh out loud moments, particularly the scene depicting the joy of birth which is just too graphic for the film-maker, who faints. Interestingly, the clips provided were generally positive in outlook with the major exception of the only world news event depicted – that of the spectator deaths at the Love Parade festival in Germany. The inclusion of this tragedy does not feel gratuitous but important.
The film is from Scott Free, and is directed by Kevin Macdonald who gave us the documentary One Day in September (1999), about the Berlin Olympic killings, and also The Last King of Scotland (2006). Considering the sheer quantity of clips submitted the choices that were eventually used in the final film are of great quality and complement each other surprisingly well, despite the diverse range of subjects and activities covered. The filmmakers were determined to make the film truly global and sent cameras to remote regions of the world and as such the whole feels genuinely representative. Many of the characters become so absorbed with their own importance they can’t restrain themselves in emphasising details – ‘It’s gonna be a family project’ declares one, while another is convinced that events captured show that ‘suddenly my life is important’. Many of the clips are centred on the ‘me’ even as the whole gives us a broad human perspective.
Overall a necessary product of our time and also perhaps a reflection of the way we view our own lives and now transmit them to the world, Life in a Day is absorbing and engaging. By careful use of selection and editing the film reveals itself to be a well-constructed and fascinating sprit of the age documentary that genuinely depicts the depth of the human condition.