Life In A Day


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
Photos and illustrations by Various
12 Sunday 12th June 2011

Virginia, star of scene filmed by Toniu Xou and Patricia Martinez del Hoyoa

So, months into looking after this 'baby' that you've watched at all stages of its development, what are your thoughts as you prepare for it to hit cinemas?

Well you know, I've been through this release sort of thing quite a few times on different documentaries and features and with experience sort of comes acceptance. You know there are things you can't control about its release, and in a way I'm nervous that people won't go out and see it because it is so different. Still, I'm hopeful that the film and its content are so accessible and fascinating that people WILL go to the cinema, get into it and that some will love it. It's a strange situation to be in where you think: how do I persuade or get them to go?

How do you think people and audiences are going to take in the film? What's the ultimate message?

Well, the important thing when releasing any film is getting people to see it. I think I want people to take away an enjoyable, cinematic experience. Thematically it tells you a lot about what it's like to be alive, and shows you the fundamentals of human life, the things that are common to all of us. You know: childhood, hunger, love, illness, exuberance, exhileration and ultimately death.

Life In A Day UK trailer

So if we're all so similar, did you come across any surprises by the footage as a whole?

I was surprised by the similarities! And the main difference is to do with people who are interesting to watch and those who aren't. I mean we watched hours of footage and there'd be one guy who, even if we couldn't understand what he was saying, would have this spark and this sort of charm. We all have things to say but unless you've got that bit of star factor, it's hard to get into this sort of film.

As director what was your role in coordinating the music for the film?

Well, the music was really important. I'm actually making a film about Bob Marley at the moment, so very immersed in how music relates to film. When you have a film with so much disparate material, music can make it coherent. Its sort of how if you play music over different clips strung together it can give them more meaning or intention. There were two composers for the film, one (Harry Gregson-Williams) who handled the emotive scores and has been involved with all sorts of big projects for Shrek and the like. Then on the other side was the more interesting work from Matthew Herbert using found sounds and other original content.

Another of the film's many contributors

How did the YouTube affiliation and link come about?

Well, the film was part paid for by YouTube and does celebrate what it is capable of. I mean about twenty percent wasn't do to with Youtube but the majority came in from submissions to the site. They were hugely a part of the advertising of the film. YouTube are becoming not so much of a brand but a place to go and find things. Sort of like a library: I guess Life In A Day is being brought to you by a library, in a way. They made it possible to make the film but obviously gave us total freedom for the editorial content in a way that wouldn't have necessarily been the same with the BBC or someone like Universal Studios with a specific audience to please. We had complete and utter freedom.

So did anything come through that you naturally thought should have been censored?

Well (laughing) there wasn't acutally that much that looked inappropriate. I thought we were going to get, you know, tons of sex. I was quite looking forward to it! Or being disgusted by loads of footage of masturbation. But no seriously, there was surprisingly little. Disappointingly little. There wasn't anything really violent or unwholesome or whatever. I don't know why not but I guess the kind of people who film are generous people and have some generosity of spirit.

They probably want to share something that feels communal and like they're contributing to something. I mean the amazing family who were going through the mother's battle with cancer were so brave to share something that intimate with such honesty. We met at Sundance and I found myself still astounded at their generosity.

Cain Abel Tapia Chavez and his father Alberto González at Sundance Festival earlier this year

Was Sundance the first time some of the main contributors had the chance to meet?

Yes. Twenty contributors came from all over the world: from the Ukraine, from Russia, Peru, America and more. They all met each other and it was a great time actually. It could have felt like a bit of a stiff publicity stunt but turned out to be a really lovely, touching experience. I mean people with nothing in common at all really came together. The little Japanese boy who lost his mum and the Peruvian boy (above) who'd lost his mum too ended up playing swords together in the corridor of the hotel, and it was this really nice positive meeting of minds.



Life In A Day opens in theatres on Friday June 17th, 2011. To see more about the film's process and other interviews with some of its several contributors, check out the official YouTube channel here.

Don't Panic attempt to credit photographers and content owners wherever possible, however due to the sheer size and nature of the internet this is sometimes impractical or impossible. If you see any images on our site which you believe belong to yourself or another and we have incorrectly used it please let us know at and we will respond asap.