Crowd sourced – Life in a Day review

Life in a Day – Directed by Kevin Macdonald. Rated PG. By Hilary Simmons.

Oscar-winner Kevin Macdonald (Touching the Void) has taken 4,500 hours of YouTube footage from 192 countries shot on a single day, July 24, 2010. From this, he has created a 90-minute film that aims to capture Life In A Day. Does it succeed?

Let’s put it this way: raw material is compelling because it’s real; readymade narratives reek of authenticity. It’s undeniably full of humour, beauty and honesty. But does it need to be feature-length? What it reveals is actually that the appetites driving people are very much the same whether in overcrowded cities or sparsely-populated villages. When we seek to connect the personal with the universal – in this case, by contributing clips to the hyper-community that is YouTube – it is easy to lose sight of why we felt it mattered in the first place.

Like visiting an enormous art gallery, after an hour, you get visual overload from this movie. There’s only so much depth and diversity of experience the average eye and inquiring mind can take in one sitting. Extensive footage of extraordinary sunrises, birthing giraffes, belligerent teens, genial cyclists, milking goats, and a heart operation patient talking about his first bowel movement is exhaustively etched together in an editing project that must have exhausted Joe Walker (Steve McQueen‘s Hunger). From ethereal clips of valleys cascading into mountains to the materialistic confessions of a Marc Jacobs toting teen, we see life on earth in all its beauty and banality. However, it is hard to connect, even fleetingly, after about an hour or so of viewing; there is a limit to how much empathy one person can sustain.

Don’t misunderstand me though, because certain clips – for instance, one filmed within a slaughterhouse and another documenting date night on Skype – do give pause for thought. However, the idea of crowd sourcing a film is in itself problematic. Macdonald attempts to resolve this problem by taking a thematic approach and structuring the narrative around three questions. The questions are inevitably inadequate; almost by definition too limited and too limiting to answer in one day or resolve in one film.

3/5

Life in a Day arrives on DVD in Australia February 9, 2012.

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