Tribeca Film Festival Presents “A Day in the Life of America”

Samantha DeNinno, Culture Editor Emeritus

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“A Day in the Life of America,” directed by Jared Leto of “30 Seconds to Mars” fame, is a tight 78-minute documentary tracing the 24 hours of July 4th, 2017 across the various states. Employing an impressive 92 individual camera crews, the film is meant to serve as — in Leto’s eyes — a time capsule for the future, a tapestry of the American experience. And it is. But however, patriotic and multi-faceted, the audience member, myself in particular, is skeptical toward the at-times forced positivity and choice of narratives. Overall, smartly focused on the stories of individual American characters, “A Day in the Life of America” showcases the diversity of voices across the United States and the embodiment of each unique American culture.   

While featuring the interesting dichotomies of those in different avenues of work, class, family, and health —from a Wisconsin truck driver to a Californian porn star — one large overarching theme was the interwoven narratives of white supremacists that plague middle America and the trials and tribulations of people of color in the American landscape. While adeptly edited by Samuel Nalband, to offer what appears to be equal screen time to both political existences, for an audience member such as myself, there was a distinct apprehension had while watching white supremacists stare down the lens and call others to arms.

The documentary does make a point to acknowledge this part of America — as it should, America cannot forget that these people exist in order to make change — but it is the platform that is consequently given to them that might be questioned. We should feel uncomfortable with these people and we need to know their truths, but the coverage seeks to show the mundanity of these people and allows them to speak their beliefs directly into the camera, framing them as people worth emphasizing with.

Overall, “A Day in the Life of America,” does its job well. It highlights the diversity of the American experience, especially on such a divise day such as the Fourth of July. But it’s everything-will-get-better attitude illustrated through an ending that included an at-home childbirth that might result in raised eyebrows.

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