The director-producer brothers enlist an army of amateur filmmakers to examine ''Life in a Day''

By Dave Karger
Updated June 17, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT

Who directed this summer’s most fascinating documentary? You did. Executive-produced by directors Ridley Scott and Tony Scott, Life in a Day (in theaters July 29) is an inspiring and frightening tableau of user-submitted material that was all shot on July 24, 2010. Director Kevin Macdonald (The Eagle) solicited submissions via YouTube and also distributed 400 HD cameras to aid organizations around the world. He and editor Joe Walker then whittled the resulting 4,000 hours of footage down to a 90-minute film. Explains Macdonald, ”The most important thing for me was to make a movie with a beginning, a middle, and an end that worked on the big screen.” As for Life in a Day‘s novice filmmakers? The footage ranges from a droll montage of people around the world brushing their teeth to haunting scenes of the deadly stampede at Germany’s Love Parade music festival last year. One thing all of the scenes have in common is that they were shot by amateurs who have an impressive eye for arresting images. ”I genuinely learned a lot [from the film] about where to put cameras and how to shoot things,” Macdonald admits. ”It makes you feel quite threatened if you’re a director like me.”