Feature: I Am Eleven

30 May, 2011 by Milana Vulovic

Twenty-nine-year-old indie Melbourne filmmaker, Genevieve Bailey, has taken on a truly international project.

Her upcoming documentary I Am Eleven is a cultural, interpersonal and multi-lingual study of the world through the eyes of those who are about to inherit it.


Filmed in 15 countries and 12 languages, eleven-year-olds express their personal views on everything from world politics to love, from music to terrorism, from families to insecurities.

“I set out to explore an age I remembered so fondly,” Bailey told IF, “a cusp where you are starting to really know yourself, who you are, what makes you tick, what you are passionate about.

“With the world changing so fast and technology and the media being so available to so many kids these days I wondered, are they still happy and optimistic about the world like I once was?”

What Bailey discovered over the five years of filming I Am Eleven all over the world was that, “eleven certainly is this special time I remembered it to be, and on a global scale kids are in many ways, at age 11, perhaps the most similar they are ever going to be.”

In selecting the children to feature in I Am Eleven, Bailey had three rules: “The child must be 11, they must want to be involved and their parent of guardian must give permission. Other than that anything goes.”

Avoiding schools and institutions who would likely “select their brightest student or the child who wants to perform,” Bailey set about finding her subjects in a more random and organic way.

For example, Luca from Germany was discovered with the aid of a bookstore owner with a book called Ten in Berlin. The Australian girl, Jamira, lives up the road from Bailey in Melbourne.

Conversely, two girls from a Berber village of Morocco “jumped out from nowhere and kissed me on each cheek,” recalls Bailey. “Speaking a little French they asked me how I was. In that case they found me!”

With a camera firmly in hand since her youth, Bailey has made over 30 shorts and music videos. In 2005 she set off overseas for the first time, ready to accept the greater challenges that feature length brings with a small camera and an even smaller crew.

Bailey’s crew often consisted of just an interpreter and occasionally, her co-producer, stills photographer and partner, Henrik Nordtrom. Bailey’s intention was “to capture intimate stories from around the globe with children. Once you bring a lighting kit, a boom operator, DOP and a bunch of adults into a child’s bedroom, well, you obviously immediately affect the space.

“Part of what makes each interview special is how candid and comfortable the kids are with me. I think some of them thought I was about 16, so it was no big deal to hang out with me and my small camera.”

The children felt comfortable enough to share their most intimate thoughts: Ginisha from India on living with lots of younger and older sisters in an orphanage; Remi from France on the arrogance of his country’s government; and Kim from the USA on how she will meet her husband.

“I love that there are kids that make people laugh a lot,” says Bailey. “I wanted to make something that energized people like that, but also kids who really provide incredible insight and clarity to universal issues that audiences of any age can relate to.”

Bailey hopes I Am Eleven will bring international stories to a diverse audience, whether through the feature documentary or through the interactive website, which involves stories from more children not included in the documentary.

I Am Eleven required a lot of courage and faith and hard work,” commented Bailey who independently financed the project through her production company Proud Mother Pictures. “As producers we have invested a lot in I Am Eleven and we can’t wait to share it with the world.”

The world premiere of I Am Eleven will be held at the Melbourne International Film Festival in July – August.