Ten corners of the globe
Documentary looks at a day in the lives of 10 different people around the world
The new Global Lives Project exhibit at the University Art Gallery (showing through March 2) asks its visitors to abandon everything they think they know about humanity and start all over. It’s a process that shifts the focus from the differences between the world’s citizens, and instead pays close attention to the similarities that bind us—little simple moments such as waking up in the morning and getting a drink of water, walking down the road, or working at a job.
The Global Lives Project is a “day in the life” documentary collaboration that explores 24 hours in the lives of 10 different people from around the world. The project is the fruit of the labor of more than 500 individuals ranging from obvious disciplines—including filmmaking (expert and novice) and humanities—to the less obvious, such as sociology, statistics and science.
That scientific influence was integral to the film’s cohesion as a final product. World-population statistics determined the location, age, gender and income level (among other demographics) of the project’s 10 subjects—a method that may seem overly systematic, but is one of the project’s strengths, said Jason Tannen, director of the University Art Gallery.
“It’s that idea of looking beyond your own world and your own frame of reference, but it’s also very much about humanity and the diversity of the planet,” he said.
Since 61 percent of the world’s population lives in Asia, six of the 10 documentary subjects are from there. The other four subjects are from North America (San Francisco), South America, Africa and Europe. Additionally, half of the subjects live in urban areas, while the other half live in rural areas, and so on.
Jason Price, one of the filmmakers who shot footage in Malawi, Africa—the same country in which this year’s Chico State Book in Common, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, is set—said it’s a lot to ask someone to abandon their experience and bias.
“In order to learn anything about ‘humanity,’ one must disabuse oneself of the notion in the first place and start again,” Price said in an e-mail. He added that removing oneself from his or her mindset is extremely difficult, but once it is done, “we can begin to get a sense of human similarity and difference, and in that sense we find value in uncertainty, hesitation and know that you don’t really know what you see, and that is a very good place.”
Price, who saw a connection between the Book in Common and Global Lives, contacted the university about the exhibit.
The film collaboration officially premiered in San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts last year. It was shown in a “multichannel” platform, a setup that involved 10 large screens playing the full 24-hour-length videos simultaneously, where visitors could view them on a drop-in basis, Tannen said.
The much smaller University Art Gallery will compensate by showing a compressed version of the 10 films on one screen, with eight- to 10-minute excerpts of the subjects.
The excerpts are short but are selected in a way that makes them coherent, Tannen said. Some are a collection of scenes from the 24-hour films, while others showcase just one scene, such as that of the boy from Malawi. His excerpt shows him at a soccer game in his village—a clip that, when viewed analytically, tells a story about human-to-human interaction.
“[The films] are about humanity, not just those solitary individuals,” Tannen said. “It’s about their families, the lives they live, their surroundings and their environment.
“It’s just natural for us to relate to the human form, or its absence,” he continued, referring to most art forms’ focus on human beings. “In this case, it’s about human lives—lives which we can compare to our own.”