By Bob Tourtellotte
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It isn't among the most-hyped movies in theaters and won't win the battle of the weekend box office, but "Life in a Day" may just be the most unusual film playing in theaters this weekend.
One year ago, July 24, 2010, at the behest of Hollywood producer/director Ridley Scott and YouTube, thousands of people around the world videotaped their day, then sent the footage into a group of filmmakers who were tasked with editing that film into a feature-length movie.
The result, "Life in a Day," debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January and opens in U.S. theaters on Friday.
Judging by early reviews, people seem to like it and for fans of independent movies and art house fare, it brings a respite from a summer filled with big-budget, effects-laden flicks like "Captain America: The First Avenger," "Cowboys & Aliens" or the upcoming "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."
It didn't start out that way.
In fact, by the filmmakers' own admission, it started out "an experiment," then became "a movie" only after director Kevin Macdonald and editor Joe Walton (Scott is credited as executive producer) began building a narrative from the roughly 4,500 videos they received from 192 countries.
Macdonald, the Oscar-wining director of documentary "One Day in September" and the widely-acclaimed narrative film "The Last King of Scotland," still calls the movie "an experimental film" -- not exactly an experiment.
"It's unlike anything that's been made before," he told Reuters. "It's unique, and what's remarkable is that an experimental film can reach a wide audience and can be emotional and make you laugh."
For the most part, critics agree. The film scores an 82 percent positive rating on review website Rottentomatoes.com. And the movie wowed crowds at Sundance, admittedly a festival that favors films with a dramatic flair and human tale.
The project was conceived by YouTube and film producer Liza Marshall and carried out by a team of filmmakers headed by Macdonald and Walton. In all, they received some 80,000 hours of videotape, from which they culled a 90-minute movie.
The tapes came from young filmmakers looking for a break, and individuals and families who simply had a story to tell.
There is a Korean man traveling the world on his bicycle trying to make the impossible, seem possible. There is a Japanese man -- a single parent -- caring for his son; a family dealing with cancer in Chicago; an Indian gardener working in Dubai; a shoe shine boy on the streets of Peru and a U.S. man spurned by a woman he wants to date.
Few major events happened on the day, with the exception of people being trampled at a "Love Parade" in Germany. But the lack of any big "news" is what the makers seized upon.
"What makes it meaningful for me is seeing the similarities (of people) around the world, and I suppose it's reducing life to its basic fundamentals," Macdonald said.
"What I think you're seeing is what we are all going to go through in our lives -- love, childhood, you're going to experience heartbreak, exhilaration and death and those are the things that are actually important to people."
There are no aliens in "Life in a Day", although there are a few goat herders who might pass for modern-day cowboys. And there are no superheroes like Captain America. But the movie does have a few everyday heroes -- mostly moms, dads, teenagers and kids -- doing what people do everyday, doing life.
(Editing by Zorianna Kit)