Sounds Like Teen Spirit

DIR: Jamie Jay Johnson • PRO: Elizabeth Karlsen, Kate Lawrence, Stephen Woolley • DOP: Jamie Jay Johnson • ED: Lucien Clayton • CAST: Mariam Romelashvili, Eva Storme, Mirek Coutigny, Matthieu Renier, Laurens Platteeuw, Giorgos Ioannidis, Marina Baltadzi, Ilona Halytska

As a country, a huge part of our contemporary culture of the past 30 years has been the Eurovision Song Contest. From presidential candidate Dana, to reality TV judge Linda Martin, to international phenomenon Riverdance, Ireland has had a long, healthy relationship with Eurovision. So how come we weren’t represented in the 2007 Junior Eurovision Song Contest? That was the first thing that struck me about this documentary. The second thing that struck me was the joy and excitement and the lack of pushy parents. What was so refreshing about this film was that it wasn’t looking for controversy or the negative effects of child stardom. It was simply telling the stories of these children. That being said, it didn’t shy away from the heartbreaking teary moments or the horrible pressure building up to the performances.

There are four main acts that are followed though the lead-up to the contest. The Belgian entry, a rock band called Trust, are notably more grown-up than their peers but likeable and bursting with energy. The Georgian entry, Mariam is an innocent, sweet young girl who deserves our vote if not for her song, then for how much her tiny country believe her success will affect their international recognition. Then there is Giorgos from Cyprus, a strange young boy who wants to be a pop singer like George Michael. He’s talented and driven but has a sweet childish dreaminess about him. Then there’s Marina, a whiny Bulgarian who sounds more like she’s from California and is obsessed with three things; herself, her absent father and Buffy! She seems only too happy to bare her soul and tell her sad story.

The filmmakers remain invisible throughout, barely even piping up to ask questions. They let the children be themselves and tell their own stories. The beauty of this documentary is that it doesn’t try to drag anything from its subjects. It doesn’t root for sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. The purpose of the film is merely to show these kids as kids. It helps us to understand what they are yearning for, without the obligatory sensationalism. As the pressure mounts and the tension builds we can see the children’s terror and it’s difficult not to feel enormous respect as they adhere to the age-old ‘the show must go on’ policy despite tears and worries.

Overall, this is a pleasant documentary. It can be a little dull at times but it a fascinating look at a phenomenon I didn’t even know existed. If you like the tackiness and saccharine pop of the Eurovision, multiply that by ten and you have the children’s Eurovision. The children themselves are so varied and full of character that they are well able to carry the film on their shoulders.

Charlene Lydon
(See biog here)

Rated G (see IFCO website for details)
Sounds Like Teen Spirit
is released on 15th May 2009

Sounds Like Teen Spirit – Official Website


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