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'One Day on Earth' captures the variety of human experience

Kyle Ruddick and Brandon Litman got some 19,000 people to make videos of what they saw on a single day in every country in the world. The film 'One Day on Earth' shows what they found.

By Contributor / April 19, 2012

This image, entitled 'Kosovo Wedding,' is just one part of a massive effort to visually document events in every country in the world on the same day. The resulting feature film, "One Day on Earth,' will debut on Sunday, April 22, Earth Day.

Courtesy of One Day on Earth

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One Day on Earth founder and director Kyle Ruddick witnessed the power of people coming together from all over the world when he attended the World Festival of Sacred Music at the University of California in Los Angeles.

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Staff writer

Molly Driscoll is a Books and the Culture staff writer.

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There were about 40 musicians onstage, Mr. Ruddick says, and they had never rehearsed together. They simply began playing, and somehow, it worked.

“We were all sort of blown away,” Ruddick says. “Somehow they found a groove, they found a rhythm.” As a filmmaker, Ruddick was inspired by the effort and began thinking of an idea of his own. “Cinema has this universal language element like music,” Ruddick says.

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Now he and co-founder and executive producer Brandon Litman are heading up One Day on Earth, an organization that on Oct. 10, 2010 (10-10-10), asked people in every country in the world to make a visual record of something they saw where they were living. More than 19,000 people picked up cameras.

The footage, which came in at 3,000 hours including audio in 70 different languages, has been edited down to a single feature film, also titled “One Day on Earth,” which debuts this Sunday, April 22, which is Earth Day. Screenings will take place in more than 160 countries. The movie is the first to contain footage shot in every country in the world on the same day.

To create the film Ruddick and Mr. Litman set up a One Day on Earth website and put out word asking people to get involved. Videos taken on Oct. 10, 2010, along with those that taken the next year, on Nov. 11, 2011 (11-11-11), are available for viewing on the website, along with a geo-tagged video archive that allows website users to find who took a certain video and view the filmmakers' profile.

Through a connection with a neighbor of Litman’s who worked at the United Nations, the two were able to team with the UN, which has pledged to support One Day on Earth through 2015. One Day on Earth, which was largely funded by Ruddick and Litman themselves, except for a few grants, gave cameras to more than 95 UN country offices in an effort to allow people to film in countries where it would normally be difficult.

“They've really helped to tell a story of the entire world,” Ruddick says.

One Day on Earth managed to get inside two countries that are often difficult to film in: South Sudan and North Korea.

By chance, Oct. 10 was the day on which North Korean leader Kim Jong-il publicly endorsed his son as his successor for the first time, Ruddick says. Part of the footage captured by "One Day on Earth" involved speeches delivered by North Korean government officials that were very anti-American. There’s  a possibility that “One Day on Earth” will be screened in North Korea, but Ruddick isn't sure what kind of reception it would get.

“We saw a lot of things about North Korea,” he says. “Not all of it good.”

The opportunity to film a country for 24 hours was invaluable, Ruddick says.

“It's this window of opportunity, to show something to the rest of the world that they didn't have before,” he says of the filmmakers, who all got to keep their cameras. “It inspired them to go deeper into their lives and the issues around them.... it's like throwing them a bottle to send a message [in].”

The finished film features songs by artists like Paul Simon. Some big name musicians were brought in simply by e-mailing their managers, Ruddick says. After Mr. Simon gave the project a song, he says, other artists were willing to do so too.

“We owe him a big debt,” Ruddick says.

One Day on Earth is also hoping to release a film of the Nov. 11, 2011, footage, Ruddick says. And it's planning to attempt the same feat again on Dec. 12, 2012 (12-12-12), compiling that footage into a feature film as well.

One Day on Earth producers are working with a Web platform called Tugg that allows people to request that films come to their local theaters.

““I hope the message is that the world is this enormous, beautiful place that we have to take care of,” Ruddick says, when asked what he hopes people will take away from the movie. “[After] watching, people feel interconnected.”

Money from fundraisers being held by One Day on Earth will go to pay for free screenings. The free showings are something that is important to Ruddick and Litman.

“The world helped us make this movie,” he says. “We do want an opportunity for people to be on the ground, see the film, have a conversation about it.”

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