I went to see the Australian made documentary I Am Eleven on the weekend. Because I have worked with that age group for so many years I was very curious as to what the slant would be or the over arching theme. Staying with the tone of eleven year olds, filmmaker and Melbourne based journalist Genevieve Bailey didn’t try to draw any vast conclusions, or prove any points. She presented the kids as they are, so raw, simple, wise, already sculpted by their life experience, naive in many ways, and so hopeful. There was no big conclusion, no enormous dramatic event, it’s kind of how most 11 year olds see life, even if it is extremely difficult. They are at a crossroad, not yet consumed by the questioning, sometimes rebellious, and often confusing, spirit of adolescence.
Genevieve exhibits her skill as an interviewer as she captures very candid and personal responses from 15 eleven year olds in 15 countries . I appreciated her authentic voice. At the beginning of the film she speaks of her impetus to make the film: her own uncomfortable awakening to adulthood and mortality through her father’s death. She is on a personal quest inspired by her tender memories of the magical age of 11, where the realm of responsibilities still lived side by side with imagination and childhood hope.
Psychologically eleven is a crucial, pivotal age where belief systems about the world and attitudes about oneself are formulated. At eleven there is enough perspective to suggest that growing up is inevitable, which may prompt a relishing of childhood’s advantages, a sense of savouring the last bites of your favourite meal. Or instead a lingering sadness may follow us like an unnamed shadow for years of young adulthood, or a defiant internal vow constructs a well fashioned armour to resist the seemingly oppressive burden of adult responsibilities , or an optimistic drive to be a world changer, or the opposite, a foreboding sense of hopelessness. Think back to eleven and you will garner some insights into your life choices.
Thank you Genevieve for offering a glimpse into global perspectives from the eyes of eleven year olds, but mostly for revealing the simple truth of our commonality. Love and care continue to be paramount in an ever more complex world.