I saw the YouTube collaboration documentary Life in a Day this past summer, but I wasn’t compelled to write about it because I didn’t have footage or images of the only scene I really felt was worth discussin. However, now that it’s online for you to watch I feel I finally can talk about it.
Life in a Day was a collaboration between producer Ridley Scott and director Kevin Macdonald (The Eagle), the latter of which received directorial credit as he and editor Joe Walker pieced together over 4,500 hours of footage sent in by YouTube users from 192 countries. Among the footage you will see a variety of aspects of life being lived all over the world but the scene at the 43:35 mark, featuring a cow being killed by an air gun, beheaded and then left to bleed out surprised me.
In an interview with CNN, Macdonald addressed the scene saying, “The clip is so striking because it’s done in such a matter-of-fact way. And yet the animal is looking at the camera, and you can see that it knows what’s happening. It’s tragic, weirdly beautiful and horrific. I thought, if I left that out, I’m censoring something I know is really powerful and something that I know goes on all the time. I’m not a vegetarian, but I sort of suspect I should be a vegetarian, and that makes me want to be a vegetarian even more. Isn’t it right that we actually see what it is that we’re doing?”
I can’t argue his point, but I have to say, seeing it play out on Seattle’s 70-foot Cinerama screen was not my idea of a good time. Whether this was a film that needed to show that aspect of life, I think, is up for debate. And I’m not trying to take a moral stance on this, and I’ll admit that like Macdonald I’m not a vegetarian either, but I’m just never got the impression this was a film trying to take a moral stance on anything let alone the slaughtering of animals for food. I guess my question is why make the exception and take a stance with this one scene?
Macdonald also added in the CNN interview saying, “I don’t want this to feel like a Coca-Cola commercial. That would be very boring. You have to show the reality of life; otherwise, it’s not a true representation. There is death, there is tragedy, and a lot of animals die every day for us to eat.”
Again, he makes a good point, but why was this the one scene he felt necessary to include. There are wars being fought all over the place and the violent nature and effect of those wars is rarely, if ever, seen on television. I have to assume some of that found its way into the 4,500+ hours of footage they received. Then again, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe the slaughtering of animals for food was all they received. I guess I just find it odd amidst the collection of scenes chosen for inclusion.
You can find the scene I’m referring to at the 43:35 mark in the video below or click here to go straight to it.
Moving forward, Life in a Day will be permanently available on YouTube with subtitles in 25 different languages and you can watch it directly below.