No aliens, no superheroes, just ‘Life in a Day’

2011-08-03 00:00

IT isn’t among the most-hyped movies in theatres and won’t win the battle of the weekend box office, but Life in a Day may just be the most unusual film that has opened recently.

One year ago, on July 24, 2010, at the behest of Hollywood producer and director Ridley Scott and YouTube, thousands of people around the world videotaped their day, then sent the footage to a group of filmmakers who were tasked with editing the film into a feature-length movie.

The result, Life in a Day, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January and opens in United States theatres on Friday.

Judging by early reviews, people seem to like it, and for fans of independent movies and art-house fare, it brings a respite from a season filled with big-budget, effects-laden flicks such as Captain America: The First Avenger, Cowboys & Aliens or the upcoming Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

It didn’t start out that way.

In fact, by the film-makers’ own admission, it started out as “an experiment”, and became “a movie” only after director Kevin Macdonald and editor Joe Walton (Scott is credited as executive producer) began building a narrative from the roughly 4 500 videos they received from 192 countries.

Macdonald, the Oscar-wining director of the documentary One Day in September and the widely acclaimed narrative film The Last King of Scotland, still calls the movie “an experimental film” — not exactly an experiment.

“It’s unlike anything that’s been made before,” he said. “It’s unique, and what’s remarkable is that an experimental film can reach a wide audience and can be emotional and make you laugh.”

For the most part, critics agree. The film scores an 82% positive rating on review website Rottentomatoes.com And the movie wowed crowds at Sundance, admittedly a festival that favours films with a dramatic flair and human tale.

The project was conceived by YouTube and film producer Liza Marshall and was carried out by a team of film-makers headed by Macdonald and Walton. In all, they received some 80 000 hours of video tape, from which they culled a 90-minute movie. The tapes came from young film-makers looking for a break, and individuals and families who simply had a story to tell.

There is a Korean man travelling the world on his bicycle, trying to make the impossible seem possible. There is a Japanese man, a single parent, caring for his son; a family dealing with cancer in Chicago; an Indian gardener working in Dubai; a shoe-shine boy on the streets of Peru and an American man spurned by a woman he wants to date.

Few major events happened on the day, with the exception of people being trampled at a “love parade” in Germany. But the lack of any big “news” is what the makers seized upon.

“What makes it meaningful for me is seeing the similarities [of people] around the world, and I suppose it’s reducing life to its basic fundamentals,” Macdonald said.

“What I think you’re seeing is what we are all going to go through in our lives — love, childhood, you’re going to experience heartbreak, exhilaration and death, and those are the things that are actually important to people.”

There are no aliens in Life in a Day, although there are a few goat herders who might pass for modern-day cowboys. And there are no superheroes like Captain America. But the movie does have a few everyday heroes — mostly moms, dads, teenagers and children — doing what people do every day, doing life. — Reuters.

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