Category Archives: Film

“SIDDHARTH”— A Missing Son

siddharth

“Siddharth”

A Missing Son

Amos Lassen

Mahendra (a man who specializes in fixing broken zippers on the streets of Delhi sent his 12 year old son, Siddharth, away because of financial problems but when his son does not return home, he becomes worried and learns that Siddharth might have been abducted by child-traffickers. Mahendra has little money and no connections yet he travels across India looking for his son hoping that whatever force arbitrarily took his child away will return him unharmed.

Two narratives run parallel to one another. After sending his young son, Siddharth (Irfan Khan), away to work in order to help bring in more income, Mahendra (Rajesh Tailang) discovers how foolish his idea was when the boy disappears without a trace and is suspected of being kidnapped. Mahendra, facing the antipathy of his family, scrapes together what little money he has and searches for Siddharth throughout an India suffering from increasingly bleak economic conditions.

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Mahendra’s almost countrywide search begins  modestly. We then see that this story is also somewhat of a character study of a man disconnected from his homeland. The use of cell phones is ubiquitous in India, but Mahendra never seems to get a handle on the technology despite the computer knowledge that most individuals in his community evince. The man’s awakening to his own willful ignorance leads to minor scenes of humor and depth, even as Mehta tests audience sympathy toward the story’s hero: Mahendra’s admirable quality of striving to help his family makes him blind to others’ desires, much like how he carelessly sends Siddharth to work instead of school. He is frequently berated for not being as aware as he should be.

Mahendra, as man and father, is an interestingly detailed character, but the parallel storylines of his search for Siddharth and his slow embrace of changing times never effectively come together. Whenever Mahendra does make some headway into his journey, even the smallest tips of information seem to come about with no explanation., it’s hard to discern whether director Richie Mehta means to show us the distressing poverty and crime facing India, or if he means to show that Mahendra’s problems can be averted through the acceptance of modern technology.

In the beginning there’s not much that seems especially distinctive here: A poor family in Delhi send their 12-year-old son, Siddharth to work in a city some 200 miles north of the capital. Mahendra  makes less than $4 a day repairing zippers, which is barely enough to sustain himself and his family. One month later, when Siddharth should be home, Mahendra is told after an anxious few days that his son ran away from his workplace two weeks earlier.

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This makes no sense to the family, which reports the disappearance to disapproving police officer Roshni at the station and Mahendra is scolded for contravening child-labor laws, and he replies with, “Why else have a son if not to work him?” The truth is, Mahendra never really had time to contemplate a filial relationship: He’s not even sure if Siddharth is 12 or 13.

The screenplay is excellent script as are the performances. Mehta concentrates on the father. The twists and turns derive from the dad’s tunnel vision, which will collide and create a push-and-pull reaction among a those who see this film.

“SECOND OPINION: LAETRILE AT SLOAN KETTERING”— A Hero–Ralph W. Moss

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“Second Opinion: Laetrile at Sloan-Kettering”

A Hero— Ralph W. Moss

Amos Lassen

“Second Opinion” is the story of a young science-writer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who risked everything by blowing the whistle on a massive cover-up involving a promising cancer therapy.

The war on cancer began in the early 1970s and it set the stage of new ideas about fighting the menace. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center is America’s leading research center and it received the assignment of testing an unconventional drug called “Laetrile”. The idea was to curb the public’s “false hope” in the alleged “quack” therapy. Ralph W. Moss PhD, a young and eager science writer, was hired by Sloan-Kettering’s public relations department in 1974 to help brief the American public on the center’s contribution to the War On Cancer. One of his first assignments was to write a biography about Dr. Kanematsu Sugiura, one of the Center’s oldest and leading research scientists as well as the original co-inventor of chemotherapy.

Moss met with Sugiura and he discovered that Sugiura had been studying this “quack remedy” in laboratory mice, and with unexpectedly positive results. Shocked and bewildered, Moss reported back to his superiors what he had discovered but was met with backlash and denial from Sloan-Kettering’s leaders on what their own leading scientist had found. Moss tried to publicize the truth about what Sugiura found even when diplomatic approaches failed. Moss was forced into living a double life—he continued to work as a loyal employee at the center and he tried to help fellow employees leak the information to the American public. This was the beginning of a new underground organization called “Second Opinion”.

 Fueled by respect and admiration for Sugiura—Ralph W. Moss attempted to publicize the truth about Sugiura’s findings. And after all diplomatic approaches failed, Moss lived a double life, working as a loyal employee at Sloan-Kettering while also recruiting fellow employees to help anonymously leak this information to the American public—through a newly formed underground organization they called—“Second Opinion”.

This is the remarkable true story of a young science-writer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, who risked everything by blowing the whistle on a massive cover-up involving a promising cancer therapy.

Ralph W. Moss is the author of the infamous book “The Cancer Industry”. His latest book, “Doctored Results” was released in February 2014. As a medical writer, Moss has written 15 books on questions relating to cancer research and treatment. Moss is a graduate of New York University (BA, cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 1965) and Stanford University (MA, 1973, PhD, 1974, Classics). The former science writer and assistant director of public affairs at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York (1974-1977), for the past 35 years Moss has independently evaluated the claims of conventional and non-conventional cancer treatments.

In 1994, Ralph W. Moss was formally invited by Harold Varmus, MD—the director of America’s National Institute’s of Health (NIH)—to be a member of the NIH’s Alternative Medicine Advisory Council where Ralph became a co-founding advisor to the NIH’s Office Of Alternative Medicine (now NCCAM). His articles and scientific communications have appeared in The Lancet, the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, the Journal of the American Medical Association, New Scientist, Immunobiology, Anticancer Research, Genetic Engineering News, Research in Complementary Medicine, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, and Integrative Cancer Therapies (SAGE), of which he is Corresponding Editor. His op-ed “Patents Over Patients” appeared in the New York Times.

“MARAT/SADE”— An Experience

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“Marat/Sade”

An Experience

Amos Lassen

 Bringing a play to the screen has been approached in many ways, often disastrously, but it is hard to recall a film that solves it so triumphantly as Peter Brook’s “Marat/ Sade.” “The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade” is the film version of a play presented as being written by de Sade (for whom sadism is named), and acted out exactly as if it were performed by the inmates of the insane asylum where de Sade spent his last years writing plays for them to perform. If you think that this sounds a little too bizarre to be an enjoyable movie, you’re half right. To be exact, it’s much too bizarre. 

 It is set on July 13, 1808 at the Charenton Insane Asylum just outside Paris. The inmates of the asylum are mounting their latest theatrical production, written and produced by probably the most famous inmate of the facility, the Marquis de Sade. The asylum’s director, M. Coulmier, a supporter of the current French regime led by Napoleon, encourages this artistic expression as therapy for the inmates, while providing the audience – the aristocracy – a sense that they are being progressive in inmate treatments. Coulmier as the master of ceremonies, his wife and daughter in special places of honor, and the cast, all of whom are performing the play in the asylum’s bathhouse, are separated from the audience by prison bars. The play is a retelling of a period in the French Revolution culminating with the assassination exactly fifteen years earlier of revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat by peasant girl, Charlotte Corday. The play is to answer whether Marat was a friend or foe to the people of France. 

Peter Brook is one of the world’s most famous stage directors. He and experimental theater go hand in hand. “Marat/Sade” is adapted from Brook’s own Royal Shakespeare Company production of Peter Weiss’ play. He used the Shakespeare Company for the movie, creating a daring and almost entirely successful film that makes the audience think and take sides. 

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 In an attempt at therapy, the Marquis de Sade has written and directed a play that proceeds as well as one would imagine, considering the main actress (Glenda Jackson) is a narcoleptic manic-depressive, and one of the main actors is a serial rapist. Slowly but surely, the production begins to unravel, and the inmates become harder to control. And through the production, various inmates spout out different philosophies, while the head of the asylum speaks for the Napoleonic government of the time. 

This capsule summary doesn’t do justice to this film; Peter Brook’s direction, the makeup, and the acting all defy words. Brook contrasts extreme close-ups with wide long shots to suggest that the viewer is seeing a play. However, the contrast actually works in creating a palpable tension that doesn’t let up until the final explosive moments. The makeup, suggesting not only the sickness of the inmates, but also some of the crueler tortures that passed for therapy at the time heightens the sense of unease. Most of the actors have very few lines, so they allow the makeup and their general stance to suggest their own particular mental illness. The result is that the individual characters come together to become a dangerous mass, with each individual giving a particular shading to the larger whole. 

 Of course, the leads have more than their fair share of lines. Patrick Magee is the true standout as De Sade and is eminently more expressive and restrained here, in a role that is generally known for its wild theatrics. Magee has  crafted the Marquis into a much more human and believable character. And the look of regret ever present on Magee’s face multiplies the resonance of the. Ian Richardson ably holds up his end of the film as Jean-Paul Marat, the French revolutionary leader. Richardson’s role is less articulate than Magee’s, but what he lacks in dialogue he more than makes up for in sheer misery. Marat was a leader of strong ideals who was constantly betrayed by the ravenous actions of the French mob, who had no real plan, as well as later bloodthirsty revolutionary leaders like Robespierre. He also had a skin disease that was rather unsightly. Richardson wears his emotions on his sleeve (as well as some gruesome makeup on his body), and plays most of the film with a haunting gaze that is truly chilling. 

 The only real problem is that it tends to become overly talkative. Now, realizing that even within the film we’re supposed to be watching a play, most of the action will be symbolized, and Brook employs various devices to suggest different actions, and most to good effect. But this is a movie about a play about the French Revolution, so the endless talking makes it drag at times. Luckily, there are some good songs that are lively and pick things up. On the whole I’d have shaved off five to ten minutes, and then there would be no need to complain. As it is, Marat/Sade is more than worth watching, regardless of the few extra dragging minutes.

 The play is vexing and difficult, lacking entirely in the conventional kind of plot and suspense. Because of its peculiar structure, it made us aware at all times of the gap between the stage and reality.

At one level, the inmates of the asylum at Charenton were performing a play about the assassination of the French revolutionary figure, Marat. At the next level, we knew that the play was being directed by one of the inmates, the Marquis de Sade, for an audience of powdered and wigged members of Napoleon’s court.

At the third level was the tension during the production. Would the inmates, constantly distracted from the play by their various forms of insanity, be able to finish? Would they riot first? Would the director permit the Marquis’ subversive play to continue even if they did not?

There was the dramatic situation itself to deal with. Here was a play ostensibly being performed in 1808 by madmen, before an audience of reactionaries, 15 years after the revolution had died. Why should this situation be thought relevant to us in the middle of the 20th Century?!

Brooks made a motion picture about a production of the play. He retained the original script, unaltered so far as I could tell. He used most of the members of  the original company in their original roles. He more or less reproduced the large communal cell of the stage production. Beyond the bars he placed an audience, which we see only in silhouette. He made one wall of the cell uniformly bright, supplying all the light for the filming.

And then, to what was still essentially a stage play, he added the techniques of cinema. The one power that a film director has, and a stage director does not, is the power to force us to see what he wants us to see. In the theater, we can look anywhere on the stage. But in the movies the camera becomes our eye and the director looks for us.

Brook has taken an important play, made it more immediate and powerful than it was on the stage, and at the same time created a distinguished and brilliant film. (The film was made in 1967).

“GREASEPAINT”— The Art of the Clown

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“GreasePaint”

The Art of the Clown

Amos Lassen

Joey Thurmond is a clown along with the rest of his family. In this documentary we are with Joey as he travels America performing as a clown. We immediately sense his love for the art of clowning and he is always ready to show others the human side of his profession. Unfortunately the art of the clown is a dying institution.

Even though Joey is the focus of this film, we meet other circus performers who speak about the positive and negative ways people feel about clowns. Joey shares with us how he is able to maintain a family life at the same time he works as a clown and we become very aware of his passion for what he does—so much so that has put his life savings and police pension into his ultimate passion.  He has even gone as far as updating his show to make it relevant to day but the problem that he faces is that he and his family never know, in advance, if they will be able to make it another year. Jamie, his wife, is the money manager and she works hard to see that the family is financially solvent. Tyler, Joey’s son, is in the midst of deciding whether to continue on his father’s footsteps or to begin a new career. So we spend a little time with clowns here and we see how taxing traveling all year can be.

Hernan Colonia has joined the family and is adjusting to a new country and dealing with immigration at the same time. We get to see and hear the stories of others in the circus milieu and spend time listening to how Joey moved from professional wrestling to law enforcement to becoming a clown. This is a story about humanity and familial love.

Director Daniel Espeut takes us through the life of a first generation family of clowns and in the process we get a taste of the history of clowns. I was surprised to learn about the sociological and psychological aspects of being a clown. Joey founded the Nojoe Clown Circus and we become privy to some of the special treats found there. He has also founded the Nojoe Foundation that raises money to support seriously injured children and other charitable organizations.

Espeut and Joey met when the circus hired him to make a promotional film and the two men became fast friends—this is a product of that friendship. I certainly was taken back to my childhood with the film and as I watched I remembered the times my father and I, the two males in the family, would go to the circus together every year. This was he one time that was ours and we both looked forward to it. I never would have thoughts that clowns were so human had I not seen this film and I must say that “Clowning is no easy business”.

“PIZZA SHOP: THE MOVIE”— Raunchy and Irreverent Fun

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“Pizza Shop: The Movie”

Raunchy and Irreverent Fun

Amos Lassen

I recently received a request from Cole O’Bart to review his film, “Pizza Shop”. He let me know in the request that the movie was indeed irreverent and off-color. It stars Robert Bielfelt, Cian Patrick O’Dowd and Brett Buzek as it tells the story of what happens in the life of a pizza deliveryman. We see the competition that occurs between  workers and how customers are treated. Pete (Robert Biefelt) has been with the shop a long time and we see him having to deal with a new deliveryman, Jason (Cian Patrick O’Dowd) and this begins a battle between them as to who will cone out on top and who will leave and find a new job somewhere else.

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Now I must admit that I was not prepared for what I was about to see and I had to keep reminding myself that it is all in fun and not to worry that I was having pizza for dinner. The film is strange and it will undoubtedly appeal to some people but certainly not to everyone unless we are sure that they like toilet humor and I mean that in every sense of the word, “toilet”. Here is a film that both makes you laugh and disgusts you and here you might just find out what happens between the time that a pizza leaves the restaurant and gets to the place where it was ordered.

I was reminded of a t-shirt I once saw a waiter wearing that said, “God Knows When You Don’t Tip” and when you watch this film you will understand exactly why I included that here.

There are some really good ideas here and this movie could have been so much better had the cast not been so wooden—you will not find any great performances here nor will you find a great plot (which I cannot describe except to say that you might worry before you order your next pizza). I can remember that as I was growing up, several friends who took jobs as waiters always seemed to have the desire to do something to a disrespectful customer’s food and that is the hint I give you about what happens here. I am sure that we have all noticed that those who order in seem to have a sense of entitlement that is lacking in those who are stuck preparing their meal (in this case, pizza). Not tipping is code for getting back at those who order and pay the exact amount. Here they are punished in ways that might cause you to stop ordering out.

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We have quite a cast of characters here and they include a 97-year-old stripper, a serial killer, and an affection starved, full bodied ebony Amazon with a taste for chocolate syrup and young men. But the real action comes with getting back at a regular customer who orders pizza delivered on a regular basis but never tips the guy who delivers it. There is another aspect here and that deals with the struggle to be on top—whether that means getting the most tips and/or being the best liked by fellow workers. There are a few very funny moments here and I believe the film could have been that much funnier had it not dealt so much with toilet humor. I could be saying that because I am so old and knowing that the youth of today will find this very funny.

“kabbalah me”— A Personal Journey


kabbalah me

“kabbalah me”

A Personal Journey

Amos Lassen

the lower case letters are as they appear in the film 

I just received word that “kabbalah me” is premiering in New York City on August 22. The film is a documentary and a personal journey into Kabbalah, a mystical spiritual experience that is linked to Judaism. Kabbalah is rooted in the Torah and the Talmud and has been studied by leading Judaic scholars for many centuries. However, many Jews are unaware or uninformed about Kabbalah and its significance. This film tells the story of how co-director Steven Bram, feeling a spiritual void in his life, immerses himself into the world of Kabbalah.


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Bram was raised in New York as a secular Jew and without much interest in organized religion. He grew up to lead a conventional life – marrying a nice Jewish woman from the suburbs, fathering two beautiful daughters, living on the Upper West Side, and working at a sports and entertainment company. But after 9/11, he felt a longing for a deeper and more fulfilling spiritual life. This longing leads him on a five year journey that includes reconnecting with his Hasidic family members, studying with Judaic scholars, and taking a pilgrimage to Israel, where he immerses himself in the history and traditions of the Holy Land and meets with charismatic Rabbis, Talmudic scholars and spiritual leaders. As Bram’s spiritual journey progresses, the mystical and complex world of Kabbalah, with its varying interpretations and myriad rituals and lessons, slowly unfolds, leading to profound changes in all aspects of his life. The film is directed by Bram and Judah Lazarus.

 Steven Bram has been the COO of New York-based Bombo Sports & Entertainment, LLC since it’s founding in 1999. He has produced over 50 sports films for television, DVD and digital release. He also sits on the board of the Aish Center in New York. Judah Lazarus is a music video director whose work includes videos by AZ, Reakwon of the Wu Tang Clan and Trick Daddy. As an actor Judah played opposite Tim Robbins in Noise. Judah also developed the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner The Believer, starring Ryan Gosling. Judah and his partner Moshe Lazarus now run High Line Productions, which is developing a TV series about Brooklyn’s Hassidic Hipster subculture.



“BROKEN BRANCHES”— Loss, Family and Hope (An Animated Documentary)

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“Broken Branches”

Loss, Family and Hope (An Animated Documentary)

Amos Lassen

When Michal Rechter was only 14-years-old, World War II was on the verge of breaking out. She left her family in Poland and went to Israel. Today she is 92 and she tells her story to her granddaughter, Ayala Sharot, the director of this film. Sharot then brings her grandmother’s memories to life in this beautifully animated film.

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We see essays that Michal wrote when she was a Polish schoolgirl. In one of these, “The Land of Israel”, she writes of a beautiful and magical place. In another essay she describes her life in the Polish village and the rise of Adolph Hitler.

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Michal’s parents wanted her to have a good life so they sent her with a Jewish youth group to live in an Israeli boarding school. They were to have followed her to Israel the following year but when the war began everything changed.

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With Michal’s arrival at the school, she soon saw that her life would now be completely different and that she had to forego her Diaspora identity and become a “Sabra”, a real Israel. She was not alone—there were other classmates who left their parents behind and as the war moved forward, communication with Poland was extremely difficult. Her father and her sister wrote to her and described the despair that they were thrust into yet Michal remained an optimist. School took her away from her worries about her family and she eventually realized what their fate would be.

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Michal relates her story as she remembers it—through the eyes of an innocent child who had no pain or regret. She shares pictures and letters from her childhood, and gives us a glimpse of how she viewed the world as a young girl. Even at 92, there is a youthful energy that shines through the film. She left home filled with hopes and dreams and even with all that was happening, she was able to remain innocent and able to build a new home and a new life in Israel.

“HALF THE ROAD: THE PASSIONS, PITFALLS & POWER OF WOMEN’S PROFESSIONAL CYCLING”— “Equal Pay for Equal Pedaling”

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“Half The Road: The Passion, Pitfalls & Power of Women’s Professional Cycling”

“Equal Pay for Equal Pedaling”

Amos Lassen

Kathryn Bertine, the director of “Half the Road” explores the world of women’s professional cycling, focusing on both the love of sport and the pressing issues of inequality that modern-day female athletes face in male dominated sports. She uses footage from some of the world’s best races along with interviews with Olympians, World Champions, rookies, coaches, officials, doctors and family members to give us  unique insight to the drive, dedication, and passion it takes for a female cyclist to thrive. 

We see some of the women who have achieved inroads in other sports, such as Katherine Switzer, the first woman to officially register (as “K.V. Switzer”) and run the all-male Boston Marathon in 1967. Her photograph finishing the race has been considered of the “100 Photographs that Changed the World” by Life Magazine.half1



The film is a convincing argument for the disparity in fairness between men’s and women’s cycling in her impassioned documentary.” It explores the world of women’s professional cycling, focusing on both the love of sport and the pressing issues of inequity that modern-day female riders face in a male-dominated sport. Both on and off the bike, the voices and advocates of women’s pro cycling take the audience on a journey of enlightenment, depth, strength, love, humor and best of all, change and growth. While this is film about women’s professional cycling, it is also about society and equality. There is a great deal to be gleaned from this film and we sense the feeling that one day the entire world will see sports not as divided by gender but as games in which all are equal. 

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The DVD’s special features include a bonus film, “The Five C’s of Change”, a photo gallery and a biography of the director.

“ALI: FEAR EATS THE SOUL”— An Almost Accidental Romance

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“Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” (“Angst essen Seele auf”)

 An Almost Accidental Romance

Amos Lassen

A German women and a Moroccan migrant decide to marry and because he is twenty-five years younger than her, everyone around them is appalled. Rainer Werner Fassbinder directed this in 1974 and it is finally making it to DVD. The film widens the age gap and deals with racism and the characters move forward in a battle for social justice.

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Emmi (Brigitte Mira) falls in love and marries an Arab worker, Ali (El Hedi ben Salem) and this subsequently incurred the scorn of the separatist world around her. Fassbinder foreshadows Emmi’s dilemma from the start, when the woman walks into the bar where she meets Ali and the people inside seem frozen around her. Throughout the film, Fassbinder employs a series of remarkably simple framing devices to reinforce the isolation of his characters—from the harsh German culture, each other, and, ultimately, themselves.

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The film’s original German title reads Angst essen Seele auf, which actually translates into English as Fear Eat Soul. Deliberately ungrammatical, the original title references both Ali’s limited German and his naïve innocence. Ali’s terse speaking matter is ripe with aphorisms (“Think much, cry much” and “Money spoils a friendship”), but it’s also another way for Fassbinder to evoke the suspended animation of his character’s lives. The great irony here that the film’s victimizers exhibit the very uncivilized behavior they see in Emmi’s marriage to Ali.

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The film’s famous sea-of-yellow-chairs sequence can be seen then as a rhetorical shift of sorts through which Fassbinder sees the push-pull effect of racism. Suddenly it’s as if Emmi’s tears have healed the world and the film’s racists are seemingly redeemed: Emmi’s son Bruno (Peter Gauhe), who may or may not have killed the family cat when he was younger, sends his mother a check for a new television, and Elli’s neighbors begin to ask for favors and commend her on her remarkable kindness.

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We see that almost from the moment they met the lonely cleaning lady and the handsome Arab that the two are very much into each other. They become a couple and have to face the societal ramifications. Their prosecution ranges from oblique to blatant. The two seek happiness in a world that will not let them rest. Fassbinder continually reinforces the couple’s isolation by framing them in cramped shots. The claustrophobia induced by the camera helps us share their discomfort and oppression. The camerawork is amazing but that is not the only reason to see this.

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Emmi is portrayed by a great German actress, Brigitte Mira. She exudes an impressive array of moods and emotions, each more convincing than the last. She runs the gamut from euphoria to desperation, and we feel with her at every turn. El Hedi ben Salem gives Ali a stoic approachability. He is serious but displays a great sense of humor. His moments of desperate frustration lend realistic dissonance to their relationship. El Hedi ben Salem was Fassbinder’s when the picture was made during two weeks in 1974. The DVD is one of the Criterion collection and it is filled with extras.

“MAIDENTRIP”— Sailing the World Alone

maidentrip

“MAIDENTRIP”

Sailing the World Alone

Amos Lassen

Here we meet Laura Dekker, a 14 year old who decides to take a two year voyage around the world. It is her goal to be the youngest person ever to sail around the world alone. Director Jillian Scheslinger brings us a brave and defiant Laura as she sets out to make her dream come true. We are with Laura as she is far from home and family and receiving a lot of attention that she does not want. She travels the world looking for freedom and adventure as she shares her videos from such places as the Galapagos Islands, French Polynesia, Australia, and South Africa among others.

It all began in 2009 when she announced that she was planning to sail around the world alone. The government of the Netherland immediately stepped in— they did not wanting to allow a 12-year-old girl to embark upon such a dangerous adventure on her own. The Dutch courts were able to temporarily prevent Dekker from setting sail because she was still under the shared custody of her parents. However, eventually, a Dutch court ended Dekker’s custody arrangement and this permitted Laura to begin her excursion in a 38 ft two-masted Jeanneau Gin Fizz ketch named “Guppy”.

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Taking several video cameras with her, she was able to document her journey that lasted 16 months. Her cameras quickly became her friends and “her most loyal confidant”. As we watch we realize her true motivation in making this trip— she just wants freedom, and being out at sea gives her that. Dekker was born sailing— the first few years of her life were at sea as her parents completed a seven-year sailing trip. She has an intense connection with the sea and when she was just six years old, she already owned her own boat. By the time she was ten she was already going out to sea alone.

This documentary has to good deal to say about the mind of a teenager. It captures Laura’s thoughts and insights as one who has abandoned society for a long period of time and while this does affect the way she thinks, we see that ennui is her greatest enemy. Being alone and sitting quietly in the middle of the sea is more frightening to her than the terror of sailing over reefs and experiencing storms.

Of course we know that this footage is heavily edited, yet she still provides us with a frank interpretation of her journey. We see how she feels about her family as she thinks about her parents and her sister. She also considers the nature of existence and what are the things that make her happy.

The solitary nature of this trip allows Dekker to think about the meaning of her existence and what makes her happy. It is as if she has taken a time-out from life. Because we do not know how her journey ends, it is even more exciting.

Dekker’s trip quite naturally has caused a good deal of debate about allowing the young to make their own decisions. Dekker is an example as to why kids should be allowed to think for themselves — especially when permitted by their legal guardian(s) — without intervention by the government.

This is actually a transcendent coming of age story that is a perfect vehicle for female and teenage empowerment.

The film does not really deal with the legal issues but instead gives us the details of her court battle.

Before she was able to go on her journey, Laura had to fight a Dutch court, which stepped in due to the objections of the local authorities. The Netherland’s child protection bureaucracy sought custody of Laura to prevent her from going on her trip. It took 10 months but a family court allowed Laura to finally get her journey started. As her father puts it, “They tried to break Laura down but she’s too strong.”

Once she sets sail, the film is just about her and we see that she had no intention of breaking a record—she just wanted to see the world and to meet people.

Laura had her struggles at sea—she not only missed her parents but she had to deal with the media that was occasionally frustrating. During the actual sailing, there was only one real moment where Laura really feared for her well-being as well as for her boat. “Sailing along the Torres Strait, which is one of the toughest places to navigate for any sailor, Laura has to avoid reefs, islands, and large ships. She was able to make it through the Strait but at a cost. Her father flew in to Australia and the time they spent together was to repair Guppy. Traveling through the Torres Strait destroyed the sails, broke the steering wheel, and damaged the boat as a whole”.

This is really the story of a girl wanting to be her own person. When her journey ended in 2012 at St. Maarten, Laura did not go home, she kept on sailing and actually became a role model for many.

There is certainly a level of ego that goes into the sheer act of sailing around the world solo—especially if, like Laura Dekker when she sets out on her trip, you’re only 14 years old. And yes, there’s already some narcissism built into the fact that much of the footage in the film was shot by Dekker herself, but Jillian Schlesinger’s film uses Laura’s astonishing two-year feat to look at more universal desires— living one’s life to the fullest, exploring the wide world and to discovering what inspires passion. Laura didn’t exactly set out to “find herself”—or, if she was intending to find herself, she didn’t realize it at the beginning. She tells us that the trip started simply from a love of sailing that developed in her earliest years. With that love came the desire to see the world, and in the early stages of her voyage, that’s exactly what she does. The longer she sails, however, the more she begins to embrace the introspective solitude of simply being out in the open sea, with none of the modern-day technological creature comforts at her disposal—she even is hostile to a reporter who tells her that she really only wants to be the youngest person to sail around the world despite Laura’s repeated claims that she was never interested in breaking records. The surprise here is that she is not interested in fame or glory. When the journey comes to a close and she’s greeted with a hero’s welcome, she says that she’s tempted to simply sail right past them all and keep on going.