The 11Eleven Project is an ambitious documentary that will premiere on November 11 at selected theatrical sites across Australia – be they legitimate cinemas or makeshift ones in community spaces.
I like the idea that as a people we share these simple moments
Danielle Lauren is the driving force behind the 11Eleven Project, a multi-media event whose focal point is a film that captures a universal experience of a single day. The vast project of daunting insight chronicles the mood and realities of November 11, 2011, from a multitude of crowdsourced material.
“I'm proud to say the idea was borne in a cinema,” says Lauren, a fervent multi-tasker who, when not developing film and TV projects, is the Australian Ambassador for the 'Charter for Compassion', an initiative created by TED.com, and has consulted for Australians for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
“It was in Perth in 2000, watching back-to-back both Poyannisqatsi and Koyannisqatsi and feeling so overwhelmed by the images. Then I thought 'What would it be like if all this was happening at the same time?' That thought sent me into some sort of overload and half way through the second film I left the cinema, grabbed a pen and paper in the foyer and wrote the words 'A Day in The Life of The World Told by The People of Earth'.”
The project appealed to her desire to tell universally resonant stories. “What motivated me as a storyteller was to explore what unified humanity,” she says.
Lauren is the first to admit that the process of collating hours of collected footage into a coherent whole was daunting. “The raw material was quite sporadic and I tried pinpoint themes or events that unified people. One of the things that I got a lot of footage was of people asleep, or just walking, or lying in bed and taking a shot of their feet. It is such a simple set of images but I like the idea that as a people we share these simple moments.”
The nature of the process invites comparisons between the 11Eleven Project and the Ridley Scott-produced YouTube clip-doco Life in a Day (and its follow-up, Japan in a Day, which records on the anniversary of the Earthquake/Tsunami). Lauren acknowledges there are certain similarities but points to her film's own distinctive qualities.
“Our film will have (a harder) rating because we chose to explore a few more of the deeper issues faced in, for example, Egypt. We deal with subjects like male prostitution, the violence in Syria, the rate of suicide and depression in Japan,” she says. “Also, a difference is that we return to certain people's lives, not just present snippets of lots of people. There are a couple of characters in particular who we revisit over the course of their day, providing more of a narrative arc in the material.”
The idea of a shared existence is most recognisable in the absence of language. “There is a part of the film where a little girl from Germany sneezes and everybody laughs, it is just so cute and adorable. It shows that you don't need to speak English or recognise any kind of cultural references to see that it is adorable; it is universal,” says Lauren. Ironically, it is via language that she is drumming up enthusiasm for the project online. “On our Facebook or Twitter sites, we might just ask 'What is the weather like in your city?' and we get 40 different people from 40 different countries all talking about the weather! Or we ask 'How do you say I love you in your language?' and we get dozens of different responses and experience languages like Arabic or Swahili.”
The broad aim of 11Eleven is to strengthen basic social bonds. “The basis for the project comes from a sense of 'community'. We will be encouraging more and more communities around the world to screen the film, because our whole aim is to bring people together,” Lauren promises, on the eve of her film unspooling in 20 countries simultaneously.
“There is something about making something special,” she says, reflecting upon a year of struggle and dedication, both to get the film made and now to get the film screened. “My idea was that I had one shot at this and I have to provoke audiences into making them think about the role they play in the world. I think it's a really exciting opportunity for filmmakers from anywhere around the world to collate user-generated content and create new narratives based on the principles of 11Eleven.”
The 11Eleven Project will screen at select locations in all Australian states this Sunday, November 11, and at sites worldwide. Please check the official website for time and venues.