I Am Eleven
Melbourne director Genevieve Bailey recently created a multi-award winning film, I Am Eleven – a documentary that cleverly interviews eleven-year-old boys and girls from fifteen countries around the world. Her project reveals a remarkable portrait of those among the human race who are not yet old enough to be tainted by cynicism or weighed down by their experiences, but so young to be either ignorant or oblivious of their surroundings.
When watching the film, you quickly realise that it is one of those rare movies that holds you in its grasp; the audience are willing puppets holding a firm grin on their face for the entire length of the feature. The experience was in many ways like looking in a mirror, both literally and figuratively. As the children on the screen are almost always smiling to the camera, so too the audience find themselves continuously smiling as they watch the film unfold.
That said, it is important to mention that just as the youthful innocence of the cast will forge a smile, they may also bring you to tears with their unexpected wisdom. When asked about the notion of Love, many of the children spoke of their brothers and sisters and God, while others thought carefully and considered the word’s collective value. One child named Remi, from Maguelone in France, talked about “the first love”, which is of your family and friends, “the second love” given to those in romantic relationships, and finally “the third kind of love” that is, “the love you have for people you don’t know…you feel their pain and you just love them”.
In another question asked to Remi about War and what it means, he answered humbly: “Man arrived making war and man will die making war”. I sat in awe in front of the screen, thinking about the impossible insight these bright-eyed citizens must have in order to see the world this clearly. Contemplating this complexity, however, seems arbitrary, as the purpose of this film does not lie in the realm of academia. Its purpose is, quite simply, to let them speak and for us to listen.
As they reveal the “private obsessions and public concerns that animate their lives”, they also expose the similarities and distinctions between cultures. One obvious contrast is a girl from New Jersey who talks about creating four day weekends if she could change the world, while a young girl from Kerala discusses how she would build a new home for her “sisters” at the Orphanage in which she lives.
It’s a colourful and inspiring film that makes you wonder about the places that nurture and host these minds. What unites all of these children? Is there a theme? Can we thread them all together through an abstraction?
Incidentally the children were also asked this question, to which almost all of them answered: “We’re really just all the same”. It makes you realise how much we can learn from children, if we just listen.
I Am Eleven was the winner of Best Documentary at the IF Awards, the Audience Award at the Melbourne International Film Festival, the Newport Beach Film Festival and Cleveland International Film Festival, thus it is obvious that I need plead no more in stressing its exceptional quality and power.