An entire row of sixth-grade girls were entranced as they watched the film I Am Eleven. A group of boys walked together after the movie laughing and talking about the documentary. All of the parents and young people surveyed said they would recommend this film to others which was described as thoughtful, funny, and touching.

Parents thanked the organizers for bringing the film to Oak Park and for creating the opportunity to see it with their child. Many of the adults said they appreciated that the film provides a jumping-off point for them to have further conversations with their child about their hopes and dreams and concerns. And many adults said they appreciated that the film showed how similar and different their child’s peers are in other cultures.

I Am Eleven was sponsored by the Brooks and Julian Middle School PTOs and shown at the Lake Theatre this month. Some 450 parents, educators and primarily sixth-graders saw the film for the first time during the two screenings. Showing I Am Eleven was the brainchild of Kelly Flemming, a Brooks parent, who learned about the film and thought it would be a wonderful addition to the schools’ International Baccalaureate program, which focuses on understanding and becoming a global citizen engaged in active learning and service.

Why this film? Age 11 and middle-school years are an important transition time for young people not yet teenagers but no longer young children. Australian filmmaker Genevieve Bailey decided to make this film and travel the world for six years through 15 countries, filming 11-year-olds and their stories, ideas, and hopes because she wanted to see if all 11-year-olds were as hopeful and insightful across cultures. 

Bailey herself had experienced some very sad and difficult things in her life. When she thought back about times in her life when she felt especially hopeful and happy, she realized that one of those times was when she was 11 years old. So, she set out to capture the ideas and hopes that other 11-year-old boys and girls are thinking across cultures, honoring this time in their life.

One of the many thoughtful young people in the film was Remi from France who said he dreamt that “there’s no more borders, that the world would be just one country. That way there will be no more inequalities.”

If we all aren’t able to travel to 15 countries ourselves, getting to know young people who are peers, then seeing I Am Eleven, and discussing it after, is a good option for opening our eyes, appreciating others and uplifting this important transition time in our young peoples’ lives.

Beth Houle is an Oak Park resident.

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