GENEVIEVE Bailey’s first day on the job at a Melbourne newspaper was traumatic. The then 23-year-old was confronted with searing images from the Boxing Day tsunami that ravaged Indonesia.
A year later, and after experiencing some of her own traumas, a depressed Bailey travelled overseas for the first time with the mission to film something in every country she visited. She ‘‘wanted to make something energetic, optimistic, universal and real’’, she notes in the introduction to her film I Am Eleven.
She recalled the happiest time of her life, when she was 11, and hoped it would be energising to record 11-year-olds across the world and see if it was a happy juncture in their lives, too, while also recording what challenges they faced or hopes they held. Bailey has created a very energetic, optimistic and universal film, released this week on DVD (G, Mother Pictures, 94min, $29.95). And the story behind her dogged pursuit of a theatrical release for the film and its subsequent audience appeal in cinemas and online is just as inspiring.
The film’s premise is not exactly novel. The Melbourne filmmaker interviewed children, as has been done in every format from Michael Apted’s series 7 Up to Candid Camera. Yes, kids say the funniest things and in this documentary there are plenty of cute observations among their opinions on bullying, religion, the environment and romance, including a particularly sweet rendition of how one girl imagines her marriage, straight from a ‘‘Disney princess’’ movie.
The film is not puffery, though; it contains some genuinely moving revelations and perspectives from a diverse group of kids.
You may think it a cliche that a French boy, Remi, might be more worldly than others when he opines ‘‘I am a citizen of the world’’, but I Am Eleven busts open more cliches than it perpetuates. If anything, the film shows a striking unanimity among Sam the Dutch boy, the English girl in Poland, Oliver in New York City, the Bulgarian boy with the bandaged eye and the Thai boy who herds and rides elephants. Their thoughts and actions are all strikingly similar.
These children are productive, thoughtful, tolerant and positive despite their varying circumstances. And they appear far more together than generations before them.
Bailey’s DIY filmmaking is very competent and the DVD includes a strong suite of special features, including a neat Q&A with filmmaker Robert Connolly (in which Bailey outlines the obvious difficulty in travelling the world, asking to meet 11-year-old kids) and catch-ups with four of the participants. Bailey’s website iameleven.com is a successful, ongoing project that is also worth a look.
Of course, this is only a qualitative sample of a generation. Who can say whether they represent anyone other than themselves? But I Am Eleven provides a warm vision of the future. (M) Fox (98min, $29.99)
(MA15+) Roadshow (113min, $39.95)
(MA15+) UniversalSony (134min, $29.99)
(MA15+) ITV (260min, $39.95)