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GUY RAZ, host: Welcome back to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. The director Kevin Macdonald is probably known for his films like "The Last King of Scotland" and "State of Play," but last year, he took on a project without a cast or crew or even a script. He posted an appeal on YouTube, and he asked anyone interested to record video of anything on a single day, July 24, 2010. And people in more than 190 countries responded, and they uploaded 4,500 hours of footage to the site. MacDonald spliced it together and made a feature-length film without any narration, the arc of one single day. It's called "Life in a Day," and it begins as the world is waking up.

(SOUNDBITE OF ALARM)

(SOUNDBITE OF ROOSTER)

RAZ: Soon, in everywhere from Guatemala to Kenya, we discover that a lot of people start their day the same way: coffee and eggs.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

RAZ: The result of all that footage is a powerful and often moving window into the life of ordinary people in every corner of the world.

KEVIN MACDONALD: We were looking for stories which resonated and which had some kind of artistic element, perhaps, to the way they were filmed or more that kind of served as a metaphor for something bigger in life.

RAZ: One of the characters is a Japanese father and his young son, and it's so touching. They are going through the morning routine. That's when we first meet them.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LIFE IN A DAY")

TAIJI: (Foreign language spoken)

HIROAKI AIKAWA: (Foreign language spoken)

MACDONALD: There were a couple of clips that I saw very early on within the first couple of days of things being sent in - because people were asked to film only on this day, the 24th of July, but they had a week to upload or send in material to us. And one of the first things I saw was this clip of a Japanese father and son going about their morning ritual. And you slowly realize as the clip goes on that they're living alone, that the mother in the family is dead. And the little boy says good morning to a shrine to his mother with a picture of her and rings a little bell...

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL RINGING)

MACDONALD: ...lights an incense and say good morning. And then he goes and he sits on the sofa and he drinks some juice and he watches TV. And it's a really heartbreaking, little moment but it's also filmed in practically one shot. I think we put a single cut into it.

It's a masterful piece of filmmaking, maybe unintentionally, but it sort of highlights, I guess what I'd call the aesthetic of amateurism, that actually, there is a beauty in the kind of the home video style. And as cameras get better and better, as we all have better cameras on our cell phones or just at home, we can produce something that is sort of, you know, great high quality and great beauty.

RAZ: Another one of the standout characters in the documentary is a bicycle rider, a Korean cyclist.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LIFE IN A DAY")

OKHWAN YOON: My name is Okhwan Yoon. I was born in Korea. I'm traveling around the world by bicycle.

MACDONALD: He's a sort of patron saint of the film in a way, traveling around the world for nine years. He's visited, I think, also 190-something countries, so pretty much the same number of countries that we received clips from. And he utters these very gnomic kind of phrases and he - and one particularly memorable moment is when he's sitting looking at a saucer full of tea and a fly that's landed in the tea and is sort of drowning and swimming around.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "LIFE IN A DAY")

YOON: I have seen many different size of fly. In North Africa, smaller fly than here. But this size is same fly in Korea and in Japan, in China. So I feel very emotional.

MACDONALD: The fly makes him feel homesick for Korea because it's the same kind of fly they have in Korea. So it's really comic but also touching.

RAZ: The thing about this film is that not a whole lot happened on July 24, 2010. And in fact, there's a character who says at the end of the film that not much happened. But then, you see all these people around the world and you realize a lot happened: the birth of a giraffe and a child being breastfed by his mother and a young boy learning how to shave and all these different things happening around the world at the same time.

MACDONALD: Yeah. It's all happening at the same time. And I think, in some ways, watching the film is quite a philosophical experience. You know, it makes you change the way you see the world, and it certainly has changed the way I see the world and made me realize, I suppose, the cultural differences which are the things we're mostly preoccupied by, it seems, you know, that this religion versus that religion, you know, this political problem. Those things are actually the superficialities of life and that when you ask people, what do you love, everyone loves their family and their children. Of course. It seems banal, but it's actually like the heart of what life is.

RAZ: That's true. Yeah. Yeah.

MACDONALD: And likewise, you know, we all are going to go through the same basic experience. We're all going to be born. We're all going to experience childhood. We're all going to experience loss. We're going to get ill, and ultimately, we're going to die. And that's what we're frightened of. And those are the same things - those fundamental building blocks are the same everywhere in the world, and that's what I kind of learned from it.

RAZ: That's director Kevin MacDonald. His new documentary, "Life in a Day," opens Friday. Kevin, thank you so much.

MACDONALD: Very nice to talk to you.

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