Friday, 27 May 2011

Classic Friday: The First

Every Friday, I'll showcase an article from the past I've written on earlier blogs that I feel merit making the transition here. I'll try to limit myself to only my favourite articles, or at least the more in-depth ones. Lazy? Yes. Masturbatory? ...Yes. To those of you new to this, it'll give a weird look at my thought-process in months(and years) past. To those of you who are already familiar with these posts, um... Sorry.

Click after the jump to see this week's soggy leftovers BLAST FROM THE PAST(!!!):


"Life In A Day" Review

by Alex Hill

Hiroaki and Taichi Aokawa, from a promotional video on the "Life In A Day" Youtube channel

Instead of a deity or driving ethereal force in the universe, I place my faith in mankind. In human beings, in all of us, at our best and at our worst. “Life In A Day” is the clearest and most recent example why. It is 95 minutes of people allowing us to see and know their most vulnerable spaces. 80,000 submissions across Youtube, and more than four-thousand hours has led to this, a documentary of consistent, unblinking honesty. And the warmth of existence we can forget is there.

Kevin MacDonald’s collection of these fragments, of such a small gathering of individual lives shows us many things that are spontaneous, and some that perhaps had preparation by those who knew there was a chance they would be in a movie. I wonder how much of it was natural, and how much was the kind of stuff they would only say or do with a running camera. They are incredible either way. MacDonald and his tireless editors have assembled for us moments and places I could not have imagined in my wildest thoughts. It is endlessly fascinating. A witness to our species, one person at a time.

We all feel alone sometimes, small in the grand scope of existence. Through Youtube(and the internet as a whole), it connects those lonesome dots, and Harry Gregson Williams’ score finds the common threads in our tapestry. After many months of tending to a wounded soul, after the incessant bitterness, anger and self-destruction on the world stage, I needed this film.

The goal was simple: The filmmakers asked us last year, all of us, to try and film a day in our lives. With a few guidelines:
  • 1.) Tell the world something you love.
  • 2.) Tell the world something you fear.
  • & 3.) Show the world what’s in your pocket.
The answers we get are expectedly varied. But rich, poor, old, young, men and women, we find some overlapping answers. We hurt. We love. We are loved. We are rejected. We doubt and worry and feel insignificant. Individually, perhaps, but taken as a whole we are something bigger and greater than we may realize. I quietly observed that the destitute, hungry and disheveled in poorer countries interviewed drew from themselves a deeper fulfillment than some of the more privileged subjects.

Yes, deep down we are all a little the same. That would be the message of a lesser movie. I think the point here is that the differences matter just as much as our similarities. Individually, we are dust in the cosmos. It is what we all add up to, the collective combination of all our lives that “don’t matter” that matters. Our state of being, the very idea that we are still here, still a species capable of love and hope, fear and prejudice, triumph and sin is what “Life In A Day” is fascinated with.

We are shown many faces, countless brief glimpses into lives of ordinary people, and the more we watch the more we realize everyone is an ordinary person. Although I doubt the number of video submissions from serial killers was high enough for consideration. A few faces become recurring characters. We recognize return appearances as the film goes on. I am sure everyone has a favourite. You will have more than a few.

The pleasant young man who decided to come out of the closet to his grandmother over the phone. The Japanese single father in a house desperately in need of a woman’s touch, the absence of which becomes painfully clear. The army wife who can barely survive with the thought of her love in Afghanistan. This is interspersed with footage of an optimistic Afghani photographer, who shows us parts of Afghanistan that run contrary to everything we have heard about in the news. We are reminded that it is a dangerous world out there, but this man shows us a piece of this war-ravaged country worth protecting. Will that be of comfort to the army wife, or the many like her whose loved ones return home in a box? Can we ever trust the image we have of that country again?

No other documentary in recent memory has made me appreciate the cost of my existence, in a time when motion pictures of environmental whistle-blowing are trying desperately to do that(to their credit, sometimes shockingly well). For something that speaks so broadly, it is somehow deeply intimate with the human experience. It is about its audience as much as it is what’s on the screen. It passes no judgment but observes, and does not stray from the difficult facts of human nature. It shows us in brutal, unflinching detail the cost of the meat at our supermarkets. It shows the Love Parade in Germany, where more than twenty people were trampled to death by celebrators who were unaware of those beneath their feet. That is the risk of a mob. Sometimes we are united and festive, sometimes we are tragic.

We see and hear from upscale men, and others who might pass for rednecks. And that second group said more that made sense to me than some of the higher educated people presented. People can surprise you. Some are simple farmhands, others have Lamborghinis. All seem to have happiness and uncertainties equally. Some are devoutly religious and happy, and others say things bordering on hateful lunacy. At home and abroad. But we come to understand WHY they say these things, and feel these ways, and I found I was less outraged. I could empathize, because now I know the place where hatred comes from. Living like that must be unbearable. We think back to familiar faces earlier in the movie, and I wonder how any of these people found the courage to expose their most personal truths to an audience. I’ve realized that we are all afraid of the same things. The things we don’t know, and the things we know too well.

We see, on three separate occasions, a Korean bicyclist who is determined to travel the world on two wheels. He has been to nearly every country on our planet. He’s been everywhere, man. He mourns the rift between the North and South, and has no solution. But he thinks about all of the other places he’s been to, and all of the people he’s seen and met on his journey. On the other end of the world, a young woman summarizes the human race in a thunderstorm. Maybe I am not special, nor you. Maybe the world is too hopelessly epic and overwhelming for one life on one day to matter. But we are the world.
This film was streamed online at the same time as its premiere at the Sundance film festival. National Geographic will be releasing it in theatres later in the year. A DVD release is all but assured.



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