Oh the paltry constraints of the five-star rating system.
How restricted I feel, how utterly boxed in! Especially when such a beautifully fragile, butterfly of a movie flutters into my life. “If only I had a sixth star,” I gushed in geeky splendour at director Jamie J. Johnson after wholeheartedly immersing myself in what can only be described as a cinematic hug.
I think I may even have made him blush, the cheeky scamp.
The film focuses around four of the finalists from the Junior Eurovision 2007: Giorgos from Cyprus, Mariam from Georgia, Marina from Bulgaria and the band Trust (Mirek, Laurens, Matthieu and Eva) from Belgium; all of whom have very different responsibilities in the intricate patchwork fabric of the movie. Laurens, the drummer from Trust, is the comic relief, as he oogles every passing girl and bemoans his gangly limbs and lack of dancing skill. Giorgos has the ‘aww factor’ as he keeps his lucky prayer for good health in a jar at his bedside, but he is also incredibly profound. After being dubbed gay by school bullies he is remarkably unfazed, saying that he’d like to thank his antagonists for their jeers as he “wouldn’t be [at Eurovision] if it wasn’t for what they did”.
Sounds Like Teen Spirit gives new meaning to the phrase ‘childlike not childish’. Whilst exploring the darker sides of the children’s lives and touching on the anguish caused by poverty, divorce and bullying, the documentary doesn’t probe or provoke beyond the sphere of the young people’s experiences. It doesn’t explore the political connotations that run deep in the Eurovision voting, it doesn’t explore the teen “beauty contest” themes or the darker aspects of exploitation that follow child stars like Peter Pan’s evil shadow. Why should it? Why should these young people, and future generations like them, have to be beaten down by the tough realities of the world during an encapsulation of one of life’s most cherished moments? Surely they will get enough of that in adulthood?
Unity is the name of the game, and never does this world vision seem more tangible than when watching a group of otherwise unconnected young people, coming together for a common purpose. Ok, so all they are competing for is a piece of perspex, but as Johnson points out, the trophy is a symbol of so much more: a unified, peaceful Europe, drawn together in song.
Johnson’s is a dying breed of film, content to show the heady rush of excitement that anticipation brings. “I could just live like this forever and the [performance] day would never come,” Giorgos says, and I see what he means. If I could roll this film out like a blanket and wrap myself up in it for eternity, I’d do it in an instant.