What were you doing on October 10th, 2010?
Aside from the numerical uniqueness of 10/10/10, chances are it was a day like any other for most people. You awoke, had a meal, possibly went to work, or worshiped the deity or football team of your choice (it was a Sunday, remember). That particular day was a memorable one for the participants in the documentary One Day on Earth, however, since it was chosen as the 24-hour period in which thousands of amateurs and professionals were instructed to turn their cameras on and document what they saw.
Billed as "the first film made in every country of the world on the same day," One Day on Earth packs a lot of imagery into a dazzling 104 minutes. For the project, director Kyle Ruddick winnowed 3,000 hours of footage into thematically similar segments on subjects like family life, industrialization, recreation, poverty and war. There are a few longer, more thoughtful recurring stories, but much of the film is devoted to quick cuts with text identifiers of the country the footage comes from, interspersed with factoids on the day ("On 10.10.10, 45% of the world lived on less than $2.50"). The documentary was produced with the help of organizations like the United Nations and the World Wildlife Fund, and if that implies a warning sign that it might be a big touchy-feely fest, the end results are in fact a lot more complex and interesting to behold.
For a movie which has essentially been crowd-sourced, One Day on Earth does a slick job of revealing what unites humans of vastly different cultures and backgrounds. It thrives on the notion that a single shot of someone preparing a meal might look mundane, but several shots of people preparing meals all over the world edited together has a profound effect. That tact results in some unexpectedly powerful juxtapositions. The segment in the film dealing with the world's usage of water, for instance, contains a cut from an East Indian girl savoring a few drops from a public well segueing into a scene with an American mother bathing her infant while the kitchen faucet runs and runs. The film has a subtle agenda, yet much of it is devoted to showing how similar we approach the same things - whether it's Nepal or France, it's no surprise that kids like to goof off. Adults, apparently, enjoy kissing and getting married (leading to one of the film's more visually stunning segments, of a Kosovo bride getting elaborately dressed and painted like a fancy Easter egg).
Although One Day on Earth can be characterized as a non-stop stream of imagery and music, there are a few recurring segments that linger in the memory. One visits with a German boy with birth defects who is celebrating his 10th birthday on 10/10/10, the age at which doctors believed he would never reach. Another memorable segment offers a window on African society with a teenager who is determined to further her education, despite pressures from her family to marry and bear children. Other segments impress with their sheer oddness, like the North Korean military pageant and the Japanese TV commercial shoot.
One Day on Earth is also the kind of film that dazzles on a purely superficial level, then surprises with some thoughtful insights. In the segment on funerals and death, an Argentinian woman explains how visiting her mother's crypt on a regular basis helps her enjoy the simple, seemingly mundane things in her day such as preparing her kids for school. The film is full of little moments like this, which makes it more meaningful than it might initially appear.
Although One Day on Earth was filmed using a wide variety of equipment, from professional grade cameras to YouTube-ready consumer electronics, the finished film has a remarkably consistent visual quality (there are a few times when a beautifully shot scene abruptly jumps to an obviously lesser-quality segment, but these instances kind of add to the film's hypnotic, patchwork effect). The photography is preserved well on the DVD transfer, with sharp detail, vivid colors, and a high quality transfer with lifelike brights and darks. The film would have made for an excellent Blu Ray, but visually this DVD version is nearly as good as the format gets.
Docurama's DVD offers a 5.1 Surround and a 2.0 Dolby soundtrack for the film, spoken in various languages with non-optional English subtitles. The Surround mix is clearly balanced and pleasant throughout, with an especially good mix occurring in the music segment and the nature scenes. Like Birders: The Central Park Effect, the disc uses DVD's sound qualities to wonderful effect.
A modest batch of extras is highlighted with expanded segments from the film: Cut Chemist (7 minutes) and Stubenhacker (3 minutes) offer more cleverness from two of the musicians involved with the project. The 3-minute Behind the Scenes segment with director Kyle Ruddick is inadequate, however, coming across as a superficial promotional piece. Three Trailers and the About Docurama text page round out the bonus material.
The hypnotic tapestry of imagery making up One Day on Earth came as the result of filmmakers around the world capturing their surroundings for a single day. While it may well have turned out mundane or preachy, the end product turns this unwieldy idea into a concise, amazing experience. Docurama's DVD edition showcases the film impressively. Highly Recommended.
Matt Hinrichs is a designer, artist, film critic and jack-of-all-trades in Phoenix, Arizona. Since 2000, he has been blogging at Scrubbles.net. 4 Color Cowboy is his repository of Western-kitsch imagery, while other films he's experienced are logged at Letterboxd. He also welcomes friends on Twitter @4colorcowboy.