Thursday 22 February 2018

Last night TV: Life in A Day

A documentary showing life on a random day was exciting and mundane says Diarmuid Doyle

The silhouette of a plane moves slowly across the blank face of a full moon. An elevator breaks down. The sun rises, a homeless man sleeps, a cock crows, a couple in bed look at each other and say "I love you".

A man and his son light incense for their dead wife and mother. People shave, pee, and wash their teeth. A goat is milked. A wedding proposal is successful, a request for a date fails, and a couple renew their vows after 50 years of marriage.

A chick emerges sleepily from an egg. A giraffe gives birth. A man faints in hospital as a baby arrives from somewhere inside his wife.

All of those events, and hundreds more besides, happened on July 24 2010, a day like any other were it not for the fact that all over the world, amateur camera enthusiasts were filming their lives for a movie co-produced by YouTube.

Life in A Day, the result of all that filming (4,500 clips and 80,000 hours of footage from 192 countries to be exact) was shown on BBC2 last night and the results – whittled down to just over 90 minutes -ranged from fascinating to deathly dull.

This was the point, I suppose. Life on any random day in any given year embraces the exciting and the mundane.

While one of us washes our teeth, another of us is coming out to our grandmother on the phone. While you’re skydiving, looking down on a beautiful world below, I’m shining shoes on a street corner in India, staring into an uncertain future.

Before the film began, the BBC continuity announcer had warned us that we might find some of the images upsetting, and she wasn’t wrong.

The most distressing was that of a cow being killed in an abattoir, two quick shots to the head followed by a knife plunged into its neck.

It wasn’t the two visible holes in the animal’s head that was so shocking, or even the blood spurting from its throat, but its obvious fear as it realised what was coming, its shivering and its failed attempts to step away from its fate.

One thing the movie lacked was expressions of political support of any sort, but you suspected that this one was included to strike a blow for veganism.

July 24 2010 was the day of the Love Parade concert in the German city of Duisberg, and images of that were included here – of happy dancers, a good humoured crowd, a dark entry tunnel, a crush of people, a team of ambulances, a sea of dying bodies.

Eighteen people died that day, and the footage in Life In A Day was clearer and sharper and more revealing than anything I remember from news bulletins at the time.

It was also more intrusive. Some of what we saw featured people who were either dead or on the point of dying.

Death is a part of every day, obviously, and therefore has a place in such a film. Whether the bereaved of Germany should have to see their dead relatives being used for entertainment is another question.

In any case, and on the night that was in it, the Love Parade footage made you wonder how the Germans plan to run Greece when they can’t organise a music festival.

One immediate effect of the project is that there is now to be a British version, Britain In A Day. On Saturday November 12, anyone in Britain with a movie camera of any sort is invited to film their lives, and submit the results for consideration.

Surely there will be an Irish version too.

That would be most welcome, because the only identifiably Irish entry in Life In A Day (annoyingly, the source country of each clip was not identified) was a bearded man staring into the camera and proclaiming how he loved to tear down motorways at 150mph.

The movie is supposed to act as a kind of time capsule so that in future generations, people can look back and say: this is how the world was on July 24 2010. Call me sensitive if you like, but it would be nice if Ireland wasn’t represented only by some blustering speed merchant.

So get your cameras ready. There’s patriotic work to be done.

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