Sounds Like Teen Spirit
This endearing pop-documentary, the debut feature of Brit Jamie Johnson, fits into the growing genre of ‘kids competition’ films, for which Jeffrey Blitz’s 2003 spelling bee documentary Spellbound is still the benchmark. Johnson’s subject is Junior Eurovision, which while unheard of in the UK, garners 23m viewers in continental Europe. In following four contestants to the 2007 finals, he reveals the competition to be as fierce, hilarious and downright weird as its grown-up counterpart.
In the hands of a less compassionate director this contest, and the cast of ‘crazy Europeans’ that assemble for it, would be prime targets for self-satisfied mockery. Johnson initially seems to take this route, with introductions to the contestants edited to feel uncomfortably like he wants us to laugh at their sometimes troubling circumstances. But it soon becomes clear that this isn’t his intention, and rather than offering a detached or ironic view of proceedings, Johnson sincerely follows each individual’s high points and heartaches through the competition.
Working with a tiny two man crew allows Johnson to capture the contestants at their most candid and open. In fact, some of the deep issues that the children reveal are arguably too heavy for such a lighthearted film to sufficiently contain. Ultimately though, it is to Johnson’s credit that he doesn’t attempt to simplify the presentation of the young people.
Selected release from Fri 8 May.