Genre: Documentary, Drama
For several years now I have been captivated by the vlogging community situated on YouTube, regularly getting the opportunity to witness the goings on in people’s lives through the medium of vlogs. You can imagine my excitement then after hearing that YouTube were partnering with Scott Free Productions to create a feature length film using nothing but videos submitted by the sites users. The film’s Director Kevin Macdonald said that the project was initially conceived as a way to commemorate the fifth birthday of YouTube, and that he wanted to “take the humble YouTube video, and elevate it into art.” The idea behind this film was to create a documentary, that would serve as a time capsule so that future generations could see what it was like to be alive on the 24th of July, 2010.
To be able to accomplish this feet, people all over the world were enlisted to go out and capture moments of their day on camera and then submit it to YouTube. As a result of this, the global community responded by submitting more than 80,000 videos. These videos contained over 4,500 hours of deeply personal, compelling moments shot by users living in over 190 countries, from the heart of bustling major cities to some of the most remote places on Earth.
When thinking about how to review this film I decided on using two separate approaches. The first looking at the technical aspects of the film, how well it was put together, the clip choices, etc…. And the second looking at the films impact on the audience, how it made me feel watching certain clips and listening to peoples confessions on screen.
This film’s unique quality, the fact that it is a compilation of other people’s footage, was one of the hardest aspects to get right and foresaw numerous problems. Ridley Scott along with the rest of the films editing team had to sift through the 4500 hours of video and cut it down to a comprehensive 90 minute film. In doing this the editors also had to take in to account which clips fit with the storyline of the film, and which displayed an appropriate variety of cultures, languages and locations.
After watching the film I can say that it certainly exceeded all of my expectations. I did worry that the storyline may get lost or that I wouldn’t be able to follow it unless I concentrated on the film, however this wasn’t the case. It was very easy to follow where the film was going in terms of storyline, and I never once questioned the ordering of clips or felt that a clip was inappropriate for that point in the film.
Something that I didn’t expect to see during this film was the use of reoccurring characters. Due to the number of videos submitted I thought that the producers would want to display as many different people as possible. Having this reoccurring feature definitely improved the film giving a more familiar feeling to certain clips, as you saw characters you recognised and already know something about.
What really made this film for me however was the soundtrack. Speech and background noise was often allowed to continue playing over other clips in order to merge them together for a more seamless finish. The soundtrack was also in my opinion, the key element in conveying the emotion of the scenes to the audience.
Another element that I enjoyed during the film was that along with moments of their everyday lives, the participants were also asked to answer several questions within their videos. These questions being; What is in your handbag/pocket? What do you love? And what do you fear? These three simple questions not only added further structure to the film but were also used to show the audience the differences between the participant’s cultures and ways of life. Furthermore after showing the differences between people, these questions skilfully brought everyone together through mutual feelings and fears, displaying to the audience that even through all of the differences, people are fundamentally the same.
On a more emotional level it’s quite hard to write a general review for this film. With a normal film the audience are all made to laugh together, feel sad together, or feel scared together, however this film is different. Depending on your thoughts and feelings, the scene of a cow being put down and cut open may seem normal to you; it may confuse you, or it may potentially disgust you. This film is all about perception. Each individual member of the audience will take away something different from it, depending on what makes that person them.
From my point of view this film made me feel almost every emotion there is, from joy, to sorrow, to at times fear. Although there were scenes I was unfamiliar with and languages I’d never heard before, the personal nature of the moments captured made these foreign scenes feel familiar and recognisable, you felt as though you were connected to the people being filmed. This film isn’t one that I’d watch every week, it’s more of a special occasion type of film, one that you go back to after a while and enjoy and take everything it has to ofter back in. This is however a film that needs to be watched, whether you end up not liking it or not, it deserves the chance to be seen. This film has definitely earned a lifetime place on my shelf.