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Sundance Alert: Life in a Day Premieres at Sundance and on YouTube

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 28, 2011 at 1:18AM

Check out Life in a Day--live on YouTube as of 8 PM EST Thursday. Yes, big Hollywood filmmaker Ridley Scott is involved, but remember, the guy makes films and commercials and knows how to edit little pieces of film together. "This isn't like any other film you've seen before," as documentary/narrative filmmaker Kevin Macdonald said before the film unspooled Thursday night at Sundance. "Thank God it's better than Koyaanisqatsi," said one critic. Yes, it's much better.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Check out Life in a Day--live on YouTube as of 8 PM EST Thursday. Yes, big Hollywood filmmaker Ridley Scott is involved, but remember, the guy makes films and commercials and knows how to edit little pieces of film together. "This isn't like any other film you've seen before," as documentary/narrative filmmaker Kevin Macdonald said before the film unspooled Thursday night at Sundance. "Thank God it's better than Koyaanisqatsi," said one critic. Yes, it's much better.

I saw the film in a screening room at Sundance and was unaccountably moved by this cannily edited assemblage of video sent into Macdonald from all over the world, 80,000 submissions from 192 countries, totaling over 4,500 hours of footage.  The filmmakers cut down the video--of varying quality-- to create one 90-minute doc using over 1000 clips from YouTube users from Japan to India to the land of the midnight sun.

The film starts in the black wee hours of July 24 with two elephants washing in water and a woman breast-feeding in bed, and moves through sunrise, breakfast, work, lunch, parenting, issues of love and the upsetting "what do you fear" section. Some of the footage is gorgeous, some intimate, all authentic. I was deeply upset at the end--because the movie made me recognize some of the things that I too am afraid of: loneliness, loss, death. One sequence about a woman recovering from surgery and dealing with her jumpy little boy and solicitous husband broke my heart, as did a widower in Japan waking up his small son in a claustrophobic, messy apartment as they burn incense for the missing mom. A teenager shaves for the first time, videotaped by his doting Dad, and dabs at his cuts with toilet paper. Another guy answers the question of who he loves most by breaking into tears as he hugs his cat. Guess you know how to tug my chain.

If you miss the YouTube event, check out the movie later when it is released by National Geographic Films, which will continue the collaboration with YouTube as they go forward. Here's the Life in a Day YouTube channel and site.

Here's a teaser:

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Director Macdonald talks pre-screening jitters at Sundance:

The editor's instructions to filmmakers helps to explain how they got so much splendid raw material:

This article is related to: Directors, Festivals, Genres, Ridley Scott, Sundance, Documentaries


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.