Kevin Macdonald returns to his documentary roots in the visionary filmmaking personified in Life in a Day. Chronicling the odyssey of a day in the life of the Earth Macdonald has successfully, with the help of thousands around the planet, weaved together a map of human existence that exposes humanity in all its visceral diversity while layering over the theme that while we are all different, we are indeed also all the same. And while many will find this saccharine it’s an important message that is timely relevant for the times in which we live.
Rationalised from 4,500 hours from 192 countries the project is self evidently a mammoth one but Life in a Day flows smoothly from one contributor video to the next in chronological manner as we follow the natural course of the day itself, the 24th July 2010. From banal acts like toileting to inhumane acts of animal killing Life in a Day reveals people and events in all their forms, beautiful and ugly, glamorous and unglamorous, right and wrong and it’s a heart-warming sentiment to peer into this scrapbook of mutually supporting actions as they transpire across the globe.
While its contributors are likely not entirely representative Life in a Day’s egalitarian sentiments are absolutely crucial to the period of time it holds a mirror to, our time. However its same but different message is both obviously manipulative and idealistic, lulling audience’s overall into an uplifting sentiment that can, and will, no doubt be proven wrong. Its charming naivety ignores the wealth of existing structures that keep us, not same but different, but different and separated, power, politics, wealth, social structures and prejudices, values themselves, all compound to form impediment to Macdonald’s world view.
Ironically in spite of this though and notably because of it Life in a Day’s message and universalist sentiment must be heard and headed, a necessary thought process required to reach that same but different ambition if it is ever to achieve real actualisation. With our crucial juncture in history, where liberties are contested in the Arab Spring, nature collapses in the accumulating environmental crisis and counter intuitive wars pass by the apathy of those distracted by the power of advertising campaigns maybe we can look towards the sentiments and themes outlined in Life in a Day as a first way station on the journey to those great ideals; balance and tranquillity.
Intensely humanist, wonderfully engrossing, beautifully human and worth revisiting as many times as there are contributors, to fully reflect on the nuance of human behaviour, emotion and motivation. This is an intensely important documentary that peels back a layer of human defence to reveal that theme that cynics love to dispel – that we really are the same but different – and the truth is there’s never been a more important time to reaffirm it.