Kevin Macdonald’s edited compilation of 80,000 donated YouTube videos is billed as a snapshot of the world on July 24, 2010, whatever that would even mean. The resulting object is less about the world than about itself, and feels like a hey-that’s-neat 90-minute troll through the video-sharing website (which co-presents the project). The 24-hour day provides a framework, at least initially, opening with the pre-dawn antics of oddballs and then morning wake-up routines (though the notion of time zones seems to have slipped someone’s mind). But soon enough, the movie yields to the imperative of database art: serial accumulations of heartwarming/eye-catching/weird/emo moments, as sorted by what the press notes call “a small army of researchers/viewers, many of whom were film students.” Montages of mothers, sleepers, dancers, people answering the question “What’s in your pocket?”; a father and son bonding over burgers, a heart patient speaking from a hospital bed, etc., ad infinitum. By the project’s definition, Macdonald, who directed event docs Touching the Void and One Day in September and Idi Amin third-world tourism thriller The Last King of Scotland, must rely on often-claustrophobic handheld camerawork, which lacks the pleasures of other spectacle films such as, say, Michael Glawogger’s Megacities, or even Babies, much less the musicality of Brit chronicler Humphrey Jennings. Acknowledgment of world events comes with an American army wife’s Skype date, a Kabul photographer extolling his city, and queasy footage of the deadly 2010 Love Parade stampede in Duisburg. But the self-selection implicit to this marketable exercise in (the dread word) crowdsourcing only helps perpetuate the insidious proposition that what’s on the Web is what’s in the world.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 27, 2011