Directed by: Jillian Schlesinger.
A normal teenager would probably never think about going on a two year, round the world, solo boat trip. But being normal is over rated – and Laura Dekker has no real interest in it. A few years ago, when she was just 13, she decided she wanted to take her yacht – the guppy – that her and her father rebuilt from a wreck into a sea worthy ship – around the world. Her father didn’t like the idea, but decided to support her. Her mother wasn’t much involved in her life, so she didn’t get much of a say. Some in the Dutch government didn’t want her to go, and actually petitioned the court to get custody granted to them. After a long, highly publicized court battle, she prevails. So at the age of 14, she sets off around the world.
Maidentrip is an interesting documentary that tells Dekker’s story, and is mainly made up of footage that she herself shot while on her two year trip. Director Jillian Schlesinger assembles the footage of the extraordinary trip, by this extraordinary teenager – and finds something rather surprising. Dekker is much more like a normal teenager than at first she appeared. She wants to strike out on her own, assert her independence from her parents, and even her country. She can be moody and arrogant. It may sound like a cliché, but on the journey she learns a lot about herself.
The movie is barely 80 minutes long – which to me, seems a little too short. There is a lot of amazing footage shot by Dekker – of the beauty of being out to sea, and some very interesting moments of introspection, and of the people she meets along the way (she isn’t going around the world in one shot, but stopping along the way). Perhaps the movie is short because some of the footage Dekker shot was repetitive – but it does seem like much of the movie is rushed. Schlesinger often shows us a map that charts Dekker’s journey and telling us how long in miles she has to go between stops – but then most of these segments are over within a couple of minutes, even if she is going thousands of miles over the course of weeks.
Still, the movie as it stands is still interesting. Some have mentioned last year’s dramatic feature, All is Lost, with Robert Redford as a comparison – as both are in some ways about the loneliness of being on the sea by yourself. But All is Lost is a darker film, about a man staving off death, before finally giving in. Maidentrip is about a young woman in search of herself – and who she will become. It is an inspirational documentary in some ways, but it’s also something a little more. It’s not a great documentary, but it is an interesting one.