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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Film Review: Maidentrip



Maidentrip is a completely engaging and warm documentary about Laura Dekker’s attempt to be the youngest person to sail around the world alone. She was fourteen when she set out on her journey in August of 2010, and all of the footage of her at sea was shot by Laura herself.

The film opens with footage that Laura shot of the supplies on her boat, focusing on water and food. We see the interior of her boat, and then she turns the camera on herself. In voice over, she tells us a bit about herself, including the fact that she was born on a boat and lived her first five years at sea. She does an excellent job of including herself in the footage she shot throughout the trip. And considering it’s a teenager holding the camera – a teenager whose passion is sailing, not filmmaking – the footage is shockingly good. It’s not too jumpy, a feat in itself, for it was shot on a boat.

The film focuses on her journey, but she had to go through another ordeal before even being able to set off on her trip. She says in voice over, “When I wanted to arrange my school the attendance officer sent Child Protection after me…They brought a court case against me and my parents.” The film includes some news footage regarding the case. It took nearly a year of battling in court before she won and started on her journey.

A title card then tells us: “Neither a follow boat nor a support team accompanied her.” And in case you think she’s way too mature for her age, she very soon shows us the kitchen in the boat, and it’s a mess, with pasta all over the floor, which works to endear her to us more.

And don’t worry – the film isn’t just footage of the oceans. She explains in voice over that she wasn’t attempting any sort of speed record. She wanted to see the world, to learn about other cultures. So we are treated to footage of the Canary Islands, St. Maarten, the Galapagos and other places. Her mother and sister visit her at one stop, and her father visits her at another point to help her repair the boat (and celebrate her sixteenth birthday).

The journey is also broken up by footage of her childhood, giving us more of a background and an understanding of why she wanted to do this. When her parents split up, she chose to live with her dad because he liked to sail while her mother didn’t.

But it is often the footage shot on the ocean which is the most compelling. When crossing the Atlantic, she talks to the camera about mixed feelings. At one point she is accompanied by some dolphins, and while filming them she expresses hope that they’ll stay with her for a while so she’ll have some company. And watching, you hope for the same thing. I couldn’t help but think that not only would it be exhilarating to make this trip, but it would also be terrifying because if you got sick of it in the middle, there would be no way to quit.

And yes, there are storms. The first rainstorm actually excites her. She says, “It’s really cool to see how the boat fights its way through the waves.” There is a truly adorable moment when she reaches the equator and offers a pancake to Neptune. On her first toss, the pancake lands on the deck of her boat.

Maidentrip was directed by Jillian Schlesinger, who also co-produced it with Emily McAllister. It was edited by Penelope Falk. The film features some excellent music written by Ben Sollee.

Maidentrip opens in New York on January 17, 2014.

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