Sundance premiere for film inspired by Mass-Obs archive

Head of Special Collections Fiona Courage and director Kevin Macdonald in the Mass Observation Archive stores in the University of Sussex Library

A unique film made by two Hollywood directors and inspired by the Mass Observation Archive at the University of Sussex is to get its world premiere at the famous Sundance Film Festival in Utah, USA this month.

The film, Life In A Day, features the film diaries of ordinary people from around the world, made during one day -  24 July 2010 - and edited down to a breathtaking 90-minute film exploring what it means to be a person living on Earth in the early 21st-century. The creators hope it will be serve as a unique digital historic reference for future generations.

Around 80,000 people uploaded their personal films on YouTube, a partner in the project, where the final film can be watched live around the world as it premieres at Sundance on the 27th, 28th and 29th of January 2011.

Director Kevin Macdonald, whose films includeThe Last King of Scotland, Touching the Void and State of Play,  visited the Mass Observation Archive in the University of Sussex Library in July 2010 to film a short piece to promote Life in A Day on YouTube.  In the film he says: "This place was the inspiration for me for Life in a Day".

Mr Macdonald had visited the Archive ten years earlier while making a film about one of Mass Observation's founders, Humphrey Jennings, and was fascinated by what he saw there.

The Mass Observation Archive is made up of diaries, letters and responses from ordinary men and women who volunteered to comment on their everyday lives and events and express views on contemporary subjects.

The original project began in the 1930s with observations of everyday life in northern England, grew to include personal experiences of the Home Front during World War II and was revived in the early 80s as a working project.

The Archive still collects diaries, opinions and responses from its volunteers to this day, including "day diaries" that provide vivid and personal snapshots of everyday lives down the years.  The Archive has inspired a vast range of academic research, books and drama, including the war diary-inspired Our Hidden Lives by Simon Garfield and Victoria Wood's BAFTA Award-winning ITV drama, Housewife, 49.

While at Sussex in July, Kevin Macdonald met Special Collections Manager Fiona Courage, who showed him around the Archive and who was "directed" by the film-maker in a couple of scenes for the promotional film, which has been viewed by nearly half a million people .

Fiona says: "Continuing in the tradition established by Mass Observation, I think that Life In A Day is a really exciting opportunity to inspire a potentially huge audience from around the world to recognise the significance of their own experiences and record this for posterity as part of history."

The Sundance Film Festival, which began in 1978, is the world's biggest showcase for independent film-makers and is chaired by Hollywood legend Robert Redford.  Life In A Day will be screened at Sundance under the Premieres banner, featuring the latest work of American and international directors.

Billed as an "historic global experiment to create the world's largest user-generated feature film" Life In A Day has already sold out at the box office, but can be viewed live online at

Notes for Editors


For full screening details fro Life In A Day see:

Watch a live YouTube broadcast at 1am UK time on 27 January, or the recorded broadcast at 7pm UK time on YouTube on 28 January at:

Visit to view Kevin Macdonald at Mass Observation.

To learn more about the Mass Observation Archive, go to

For photographs and interviews at Mass Observation at the University of Sussex, contact the Press office.

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune, Jacqui Bealing and Daniëlle Treanor. Tel: 01273 678 888. Email:

View press releases online at:

Last updated: Friday, 21 January 2011