A Few Thoughts on I Am Eleven

The reason for watching I Am Eleven is simple; it documents the perspectives of eleven-year-old children, giving the audience a general yet broad idea of what this age group is like. However, the creator of this documentary, Genevieve Bailey, had personal reasons for making it, stating early on she was depressed post surviving a car accident and the passing of her father and that the purpose of the film for her was therapeutic. It’s entirely possible that watching this film could also be helpful to others that are suffering from similar traumas.

One of the elements of this film that’s enjoyable is the fact that the cast of children is diverse, and a comparison of their values, hardships, current, and future concerns is drawn, sometimes paralleled, and other times contrasted. For a one and a half-hour run time not all the cast were featured equally making it a bit problematic, unfortunately. A child audience could very likely be drawn to this almost as a gateway to documentaries out of curiosity for what the life of other kids is like around the world.

There are reasons for I Am Eleven to be shown to university students. The children demonstrate self-awareness and have hopes and believable aspirations, unlike six-year-olds, who may still want to be a superhero when they grow up. Most university students are going to be young adults. They no longer have their childhood burdens such as being bullied and can now use their newfound freedoms and responsibilities to make the most of their twenties so that their older selves can look back fondly on the times of their youth and reap the benefits of their past efforts and success. Attending university is all about achieving one’s believable aspirations, and this film can serve as a reminder to keep a promise to one’s past self as there might not be much different from what a university student wanted back then and now.

In short, this movie is not inspirational; it is motivational; university is a time to get things done and not just wait around for something to happen. Adults, in general, are still children but with more perspective, and if someone is attending university, they should realize at this point that the world is their oyster.

The children are all unique, both personally and culturally. Some have to work and have limited education or have the knowledge and limited family, others are immigrants, and some have family and expertise but are being bullied. Bullying had a universal viewpoint for all the children that were attending school.

Unfortunately, this documentary can be problematic at times. It is only approximately one and a half hours long, so featuring fifteen children equally is unaccomplished here. Even the children who get the most screen time are not illustrated with the full picture of what their world is like. For example, a vignette of Billy and his father have them talking about how “he’s (Billy) come a long way,” indicating issues with Billy’s life, but it goes non-specifically. It makes one wonder if it was edited this way to invite interpretation. Such as whether or not Billy’s father is referring to his confidence or school performance.

However, this incomplete picture is practically appropriate as these are children, and this is meant to be a therapeutic documentary and not a reality show.

Also, this incomplete picture allows for a broader audience appeal. The incompleteness is almost surreal and kind of reminiscent of a show called Creature Comforts. Like I Am Eleven, Creature Comforts had a vignette style, an unseen and unheard interviewer, and was about regular people commenting on their mundane issues such as housing, food, family, and Christmas. What made it charming, however, was the fact that it was only the recording of these individuals that were heard. At the same time, what the audience was viewing was stop-motion clay models of animals to represents them.

Audiences related to the people and felt sympathy for the animals.

Likewise, I Am Eleven has an almost similar appeal in that almost anyone can relate to children because they either are or were a child and can feel sympathy for their incomplete perspectives.

The premise of seeing the world through children is undoubtedly worth exploring as it could give insight into child psychology and giving adults fresh perspectives on modern children as times change. However, this documentary is a bit pedestrian, not too much, but something similar with a bit more digging could probably be more helpful.

Now speaking personally for a moment, what I got out of this film was a bit of comforting nostalgia, a realization of how deeply thoughtful eleven-year-olds can be, and Billy is adorably quotable.




Pop-culturalist historian. You can also find me on YouTube as jasonnebulaar where I’ll be uploading hopefully regularly.

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Jason Nordmark

Jason Nordmark

Pop-culturalist historian. You can also find me on YouTube as jasonnebulaar where I’ll be uploading hopefully regularly.

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