I Am Eleven
Film Review by Kam Williams
‘Tweener Documentary Takes Look at Life from That Awkward Age
11 is that awkward age when most boys are bashful and self-conscious about their cracking voices while the girls are gangly and getting their first period. If you’re wondering what today’s kids are thinking about as they negotiate their way through that stage of life, you can easily find out from I Am Eleven, a delightful documentary marking the directorial debut of Genevieve Bailey.
The peripatetic Australian circumnavigated the globe to talk to children about everything from family to teasing to romance to war to intolerance to poverty to nature to their hopes for the future. Ms. Bailey found 22 young subjects to focus on over the course of her travels which took her to 15 countries.
Art Linketter coined the phrase, “Kids say the darnedest things,” ages ago and that hasn’t changed much, judging from the quotable bon mots served up in this film. Among the movie’s stars are Remi, an introspective boy from France who doesn’t mince words. “I don’t like racists,” he announces sternly, adding, “To know that there are still some people who differentiate between humans depending on race, that’s completely absurd.”
Relatively-innocent, but equally-endearing, is Remya, an orphan from India who freely admits that she didn’t even know what an interview was before being approached to participate in the project. In fact, Bailey is the first foreigner she ever met. Nevertheless, it doesn’t take long for the vulnerable waif to open up how she feels hurt whenever “someone is bullying me or shouting at me or telling lies about me.”
One adolescent I found particularly fascinating was Jack, an elephant whisperer from Thailand. He explains how the behemoths he works with are capable of healing. “Elephants can change the chemicals in your brain,” he suggests matter-of factly. “If you have a headache, all you’ve got to do is put your head to an elephant’s head and, within seconds, your headache just goes away.”
Pearls of wisdom from the mouths of babes uttered with such heartfelt conviction that you want to believe them, even when you’re a little skeptical.
Excellent (4 stars)
In English, French, Japanese, Mandarin, German, Swedish, Berber, Thai, Malayalam, Hindi, Dutch and Bulgarian with subtitles.
Running time: 94 minutes
Distributor: International Film Circuit