Saturday, November 26, 2011
Life in a Day
I watched Life in a Day recently and have not been able to stop thinking about it. If you haven’t heard about it then let me take a moment to explain. But also realize, if you wish to watch this film, then some things I say may rob you of moments you could have if you went into it without knowing what to expect exactly. Lastly, this has nothing to do directly with atheism or BYU. This is about the human race. It is a movie to be experience.
An invitation was made for people around the world to post Youtube videos depicting their lives on one specific day on earth. On July 24th 2010 thousands of people filmed their lives, either the whole day, simple moments, or awaited the extraordinaire. All together there were 80,000 videos totaling over 4,500 hours of footage. Nearly 200 countries were represented. Ridley Scott produced the film while Kevin Macdonald directed. National Geographic had its hand in the film. The Youtube community, obviously, played a major role in the film as well. Many people did make it to the final cut, though not all. Most people were grateful they got to be a part of it, many felt it was worth just that.
The film/documentary has mixed reviews, though it leans towards the positive. For the life of me I don’t know what people would expect, going into it, and why they would be upset or say it was a waste of time. I guess if there’s no overall plot, no explosions or love scenes, and no overall moral or theme except to depict life and let the viewer take from the experience what they may, then some people will just be hopeless pessimistic cases.
Here is the trailer to the film if you so wish to view. The song at the beginning is Future Prospect, by Biggi Hilmars. The second song is, I believe, Jerusalem, by Keiran. I recommend listening to some inspiring music to get a feel for what I listen to as I write this.
Here's the first song, looped for 12 minutes, it will drive you crazy if you don't like it:
And now for my experience.
If you don't wish to have a corrupted view of the film stop reading now.
I watched the film from beginning to end in one sitting. I ordered it on blu-ray and watched it as soon as it arrived. I made dinner and was finished by the time the previews ended. So I sat back, with some Sprite and let the film start.
Right away the film put across exactly what it proposed itself to be: a collection of videos, persons, countries, perspectives, and right away began to lay out themes, starting with those people who woke up at the ungodly hours of 3 or 4 in the morning. You knew you were about to watch a day in the life of humanity. From a lady locking her door with dogs barking, to a family in a boat on the Nile, to a lady saying spirits spoke to her between 3:00-4:00, I was going to get the big picture. I was going to watch the human race for one day.
Of course some scenes are not as fun as others, though I’ll revisit this thought later. Some parts in the film were slow overall, and at 30 minutes I was like, “hmm, another hour?” But there was one scene which grasped me and motivated me to stay early on.
At one point we wake up with a father and son in Japan, Hiroaki and Taiji. Hiroaki wakes up, seemingly sleeping on a futon in his living room, or only room, and the place is a mess, stuff everywhere. Then I noticed he had a little boy, who he tells to go use the restroom or else he won’t be able to watch TV. Taiji goes to the restroom, navigating through all the items and junk everywhere. The whole time I’m thinking, “wow, this kid is going to grow up and never learn how to pick up.” I thought, “how could he show this without feeling a little embarrassed by the mess?”
Then after a moment the family make their way to the back room, maybe what would be the bedroom on the floor-plan. Bookshelves, a desk, and what I termed as a shrine with a picture of a young woman: the widowers deceased wife, the son’s dead mother.
Suddenly I felt ashamed with myself for complaining, to a video, about this father and his pigsty of an apartment. As they go through a ritual of respect, remembrance, mourning (?), my thoughts went elsewhere as I felt the human condition enter me. I use the term more freely than I should, but whenever I get the urge to partake in something, anything, that another person is experiencing I call it, to myself, the human condition. It’s just the way things are, whether happy or melancholy, and I want to be a part of it.
The broken family lighted a candle and incense, the son, Taiji, picked up a rod to ring a singing bowl, which my ex had one and which I will buy some day. I awaited the noise that would fill the speakers, knowing how it would sound. Blessed as luck would have it Taiji struck the bowl at the wrong time and had to do it twice. A thought of thanks rang in my mind.
Nick expresses his concerns about Global Warming and the changes he has personally seen.
Though, as I admitted, I found some parts boring after this, I was caught and I wasn’t going to go do anything else for the remainder of the film. Besides the beautiful images and personal moments I would share, the music was also grand. The range was wide and fitting, with recurring themes and songs, and some epic pieces here and there. One interesting part was a scene with some Angolan women working in the hot African sun while singing. I thought on how I wouldn’t sing while I worked, as they did, but I wondered how I would carry a conversation while working and decided I would probably sing. As the song carried forth the film went into a montage of other videos, their song carrying me along the way.
Ayomatty, who we watch as he works in the gardens at large mansions in Dubai, so he can send money home to his children so they can survive ....
Life in a Day has many montage scenes. The Angolan scene was the most memorable, but later in the film the piece takes a darker turn as we begin to see more violent images, looking at the inhumanity and carelessness of humanity. From a man keeping two other men from fighting, to a tragedy at a festival in Germany I had no knowledge of that took place on July 24th 2010. On this day there was a festival called the Love Parade, I’m guessing a kind of outdoor, concert, party type thing with loud music. In the film we watch from many different cameras and people as they go to the music festival, a lot of them coalescing at a long tunnel, with the background music building and building, and one group of people saying they’re stuck in the tunnel.
It ends up that someone some kind of stampede happened at this tunnel and 21 people were killed. We watch as people try to climb up out of the crowd, as men and women check people on the ground, some of which were trampled, and as some people continue partying and dancing, having no idea what had happened. From here the movie shows more violent images put against images of the seemingly ever wealthy and effluent western society.
Ron in the hospital.
The film has no overall themes, and tries to show many different ideas and perspectives. The film does have some overarching questions, like what people have in their pockets. We watch as a man pulls out a set of keys, gets in his Lamborghini, and smiles uncontrollably, while a moment later we see workers in some foreign country who have nothing in their pockets whatsoever.
Or what people are afraid of, which most of humanity is afraid of death. Kids are afraid of monsters, people are afraid of ghosts, and a man seemingly in a hospital bed is afraid to die. These question themes make up most of the film, with a young couple in the woods holding up written signs that ask the questions, segueing into the next portion.
The film has some faults, they definitely don’t represent perfectly, and push some agendas. There is a scene where we watch a cow get killed, and the first try is unsuccessful. I felt the scene is fine, but for a moment I was disengaged and felt that I had been agendadized. Also, time is spent on seeing people testify of Christ, or Gusti Kompiang Sari in Indonesia performing blessings and prayer to her Hindu Gods, but there is a lack of representation for openly atheistic viewpoints. Secular points, yes, but no one in the film says anything about not believing in god. We get a girl who says all non-Christians are going to hell and her message is to try to save them, but no atheists.
In the film there are a few very interesting characters we meet. Interesting because they either are unique, or foreign. From Teagan hoolahooping and solving a rubrics cube, and Ardilavov free-running and stealing, to Virginia climbing a human tower and David coming out to his grandmother, we meet a lot of people and get a glimpse into their world, sharing a moment.
Then there are recurring people. Some people got some extra time on screen, such as a family struggling with cancer. The Liginski family gets several spots, from when the father, Bob, and son, Bobby, go to wake up their recovering mother, Cathy, to them having some family moments during the day, real down-to-earth stuff.
Ann and John Walkley renew their marriage vows, which they wrote the renewals, and which is funny. A young boy from Peru (I have not as yet found his name) who we watch leave his home with some wood contraption, being asked questions by the camera-holder. Soon we find out the little kid is going to work, shining shoes, the wood contraption a step for clients to set their feet on. Later we visit him again, in the love portion of the film, as he says he loves his dad most because he cooks all the food all the time. Giving him a moment he explains that it’s not because of the food, but because his dad does it; he knows his dad does it because his dad loves him, and looks out for his son more than himself.
Okhwan Yoon, a Korean who, on July 24th, had been cycling around the world for over 9 years and over 190 countries also shows up multiple times. In the film he is currently in Nepal and we watch him wander around (how he affords this I have no idea). He stops for a moment as we watch a fly stuck in some soup (?) and starts explaining flies he has seen, and how this one looks about the right size for flies in Korea, which reminds him of home, and makes him emotional. It’s the little things that come out a lot in this film. Everyday occurrences.
By the time I was halfway through I was enveloped in the people’s lives. As David came out to his grandmother I braced myself for a horrible experience, only to have him keep repeating, in mild laughter, that he knows she loves him, will see him soon, and that his parents know. As Virginia came onto screen, having a good minute scene, wondering why she was getting a helmet, and why she climbed out of her home down a two-story pole.
Seeing a wife of a solider in the Middle East while going back and forth with a reporter/photographer in Afganistan who wished to show the western world that there is hope in his country and they are normal people, as he showed young girls, some with their hair uncovered, exercising and training. Watching some goat farmers, from Ukraine, as they went about their day, jokes and humor abounding. Watching as a camera person went into a large cemetery in Egypt to find a family living in a shack, a father, on his own, watching out for his underage children, saying that at least they are alive, his god hasn’t forgotten him.
By the end I wanted to see more of these people and I watched with anxiety as the clock neared 90 minutes (the length of the film). I tried to piece together the main moral of the film, but couldn’t. I was experiencing life, the human condition, and I felt I was being a part of it. I felt, as one critic said, that I was a part of, "a rousing success of an experiment: quite possibly the first large-scale, global use of the Internet to create meaningful and beautiful art," and that I had now contributed, even though I wish I could have truly contributed back on July 24th 2010. I was climbing that tower with Virginia, I was in the hospital with Ron as he choked up, thanking the staff for taking care of him, I was with Bob as he looked at his wife’s scars, and I was with Okhwan as he set out, trying to inspire and feel inspired to make a difference in the world, to unite Korea, to make the world a better place.
The violet purge and images, mixed with the Love Parade, culminate into a scene with Okhwan as he gets his hair cut, saying he is now a new man. He mentions that when his eyes are closed he can see all the different people of the world, and for him, I believe he truly can. He says his adventure must continue and he begins to walk away with his bicycle, the person who video-taped him, watching him leave. We revisit the Liginski family as Cathy asks Bob what he is afraid of. Possibly holding back some emotion he says he was afraid of her getting cancer, which she got, and then getting it again, which she did. But now that it’s all gone he has no fear. I literally rooted for him at this moment. As with most of the film, they tie scenes with voices continuing to speak though new images are in front of us, or with music. As Bob looks at the camera an orchestral piece begins to play (Fireworks and Lanterns) and we are shown fireworks and other images. Soon we arrive at a festival of lights, where a crowd releases floating lanterns into the sky (think Tangled). As hundreds of fiery lanterns float upward we watch a couple embrace. By this point I was getting choked up.
Returning to the family we saw in the boat on the Nile we watch as they prepare to sleep in their little boat, the moment I realized the little boat was their home. The camera-man takes a moment to focus on a young brother and sister as they pull a blanket over themselves. Storms begin to break out in the night sky for others on that day, and we end with a woman in a car (I don’t know who she is either) who, above the noise of rain, says she is disappointed that nothing special happened and that she had to work all that day, a Saturday. She wishes she could leave a mark on history, but she hopes that others had an eventful day.
The brother and sister in the boat.
The film ends with a snail going slowly over a small ball, or egg, that eventually resembles the earth. I sat there as the music played on and the as the snail slowly worked its way forward, pressing on. I wanted to watch it again, to experience it with someone else. I knew everyone around me had their own lives, their own thoughts, their own dreams and sufferings. I was suddenly acutely aware that I was one out of seven billion, but that each of us were unique, brothers and sisters, all partaking in the human predicament, all a part of the human condition.
I was hoping that family in Egypt was still alive, that Ron had recovered fine from his stay in the hospital, that Bob and Cathy were still doing okay. I was jumping out of the plane and skydiving again. I was with Taiji and Hiroaki as they mourned for their lost wife and mother. I was with Ayomatty as he peered at the million-dollar homes and sent money home to his children. I was with Okhwan in wanting peace in the world. And I could now see all of those different people when I closed my eyes. I wanted to know their names, to be a part of their lives. That regardless of joy or sorrow, I wanted to be a part of it, to share it.
Perhaps because I feel life is worth something more than myself when I see films like this, and perhaps because I too wish to make a mark in history, I felt completely inspired by this film, through and through. It was deeply moving. It was inspirational.
And I know some people won’t see it the same way. Some will find it boring, or that it’s cheesy, or that it’s nothing special. To that I can honestly say I do not understand. I do not understand how someone could watch this film and not feel the way I do. I admit that if someone took it lightly I would find them inexperienced, shallow, or at least missing the point in life. If something like this film cannot inspire you or cause you to have a greater love and appreciation for your fellow human beings then what hope is there? For all of us.
I have tried to find as many of the people as I can and I stumbled across this site, though much later into my searching, unfortunately:
Besides this Wikipeida and IMDB are also good for basic info.
I purposely avoided labeling some pics as I feel you should recognize who they are now, and if you don't then maybe you should watch the film and meet them.