The Mindful Bard – Life in a Day

Books, Music, and Film to Wake Up Your Muse and Help You Change the World

Film: Life in a Day (2011)

Genre: Documentary

Director: Kevin MacDonald

Producer: Ridley Scott

?I can’t believe that God put us on this earth to be ordinary.?

Lou Holtz

?The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.?

Allan K. Chalmers

The Unbearable Triteness (and Beauty and Bliss and Horror) of Being

A small boy in an Asian country carries his shoeshine bench to a busy street and sets up shop. Later he packs up his bench and toddles home, holding it awkwardly over his shoulder. When asked whom he loves best, he says It’s his dad, who does all the cooking and who protects him. When asked about his favourite possession, he enters his shanty and emerges with a child’s laptop computer, proudly showing it off.

In another scene, a widowed father wakes up his small son in an untidy, cramped apartment and helps him to commence his day by lighting incense at the shrine of the boy’s dead mother. The father, in long hair, head scarf, and beard, patiently encourages his son to enact the rituals at the shrine, but the boy is reluctant and can’t get away fast enough.

Kevin MacDonald and his cohorts developed the idea of making a movie from YouTube videos. They asked Youbers to film and upload the events of their lives on July 24, 2010, so that they could make a movie from the results. After about 80,000 clips and 4,500 film footage hours, a film emerged from the chaos, complete with seamless segues and a subtly elegant plot.

MacDonald told reporters that one goal was to raise the YouTube video to an art form. His idea was spawned by the 1930s? British Mass Observation Movement, which encouraged ordinary people to keep and submit diaries and to answer a few questions on a specific day. These were made into articles and books intended to reveal the transcendently beautiful quality of daily life minus the celebrity, politics, and commercial barrage dominating the media.

Life in a Day does have a plot, but it might be a little difficult to pin down what that plot is. The film starts out with scenes that seem so normal and mundane yet at the same time so packed with meaning and wonder and beauty. Slowly it becomes more intense, juxtaposing scenes of young love and bliss with scenes that contain blood, sweat, and tears.

Later the film resolves with some poignant statements about the human condition, concepts that you could never recognize as such from the onset. The credits roll as we watch a snail perched on a glass globe, slowly eating the names of people (listed as co-directors) who contributed footage to the movie.

There seems to be a continuity of film style which you’d think would be hard to achieve under the circumstances. But perhaps this is because YouTube cinematographers have, en masse, developed a peculiar form of documenting their lives?one from which a commonality of style emerges quite naturally and only requires the deft hands of a good editor to refine it.

The film is just as sensational as it is blissfully mundane. Of course you would expect that whatever day you pick to do this sort of thing would have to include some historic event somewhere in the world. This one had the stampede at the Love Parade in Duisburg, Germany, where 19 people were tragically killed. The event provides a jolt within the placidity of all the normalcy?but That’s life.

This film is not just entertainment. It is a wonderful resource for bardlings, providing hours of inspiration for poetry, drama, and music, raising people-watching to a symphonic level and making all things one. You emerge from viewing it with a renewed love of life.

Life in a Day fulfills 10 of the Mindful Bard’s criteria for films well worth seeing: 1) it is authentic, original, and delightful; 2) it poses and admirably responds to questions that have a direct bearing on my view of existence; 3) it stimulates my mind; 4) it harmoniously unites art with social action, saving me from both seclusion in an ivory tower and slavery to someone else’s political agenda; 5) it provides respite from a sick and cruel world, a respite enabling me to renew myself for a return to mindful artistic endeavour; 6) it inspires an awareness of the sanctity of creation; 7) it displays an engagement with and compassionate response to suffering; 8) it gives me artistic tools; 9) it makes me want to be a better artist; and 10) it makes me appreciate that life is a complex and rare phenomenon, making living a unique opportunity.

Wanda also penned the poems for the artist book They Tell My Tale to Children Now to Help Them to be Good, a collection of meditations on fairy tales, illustrated by artist Susan Malmstrom.

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