Sunday, January 19, 2014

Review: Maidentrip

Image courtesy of First Run Features.
"Maidentrip" is a movie Werner Herzog might have made had director Jillian Schlesinger not gotten there first. For those unfamiliar with the German filmmaker's oeuvre, many of his documentaries chronicle the tales of individuals with unique quirks or strange stories, such as a man who goes to live among bears ("Grizzly Man") or a ski-jumper obsessed with carpentry ("The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner").

Schlesinger's film fits into that mold, telling the pretty amazing story of a 14-year-old Dutch girl named Laura Dekker who sailed alone around the world during a period of two years. What's most amazing about her adventure, perhaps, is that her parents were OK with it in the first place.

In 2010, Dekker began looking for sponsors for her voyage and was met with criticism from the Dutch government, which attempted to prevent her from taking her trip. Eventually, she won the day and set sail in August 2010, crossing through the Galapagos Islands, three oceans, an especially treacherous area near Australia, the equator and the Cape of Good Hope.

Interspersed throughout her trip were meet-ups between Dekker and her father, mother and sister and an American couple on their own voyage. We also see the world through the young precocious girl's eyes as she becomes more of an adult during the two years she spent on the water.

During a question and answer session at Manhattan's IFC Center this weekend, the director said that Dekker experienced some bumps during her journey that were not recorded on camera. So if it seems as if Dekker's trip were all smooth sailing, that is, most likely and unfortunately, because much of the filming of "Maidentrip" was left in the hands of Dekker, who obviously had to prioritize safety over camera work.

Schlesinger's film is meant to inspire and it does. Dekker is spunky and headstrong, making her a compelling heroine. Her journey is one worth taking, even if you can't possibly ever imagine allowing your own kids to do the same.

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