Hits all the right notes
In truth, a documentary about the annual Junior Eurovision Song Contest doesn’t sound all that appealing on paper, particularly for anyone who has never fully understood the appeal of the adult contest which is televised in all its camp glory every year. But Jamie Jay Johnson’s film is a surprising gem, a no-holds-barred look at ambition and determination in its most innocent form.
As Johnson follows the finalists of the 2007 Junior Eurovision, so we meet the eclectic group of contestants including Mariam, a young girl from Georgia whose mother cannot afford to travel to watch her daughter sing, and whose only wish is that the her success helps her family have a better life. Marina from Bulgaria, who is obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, hopes that if her dad sees her in the final he may realise what he’s missing and come back to the family home. And young Giorgos, from Cyprus, sings to drown out the school bullies who taunt him with accusations of homosexuality.
Of course, in the finest Eurovision tradition there are acts that will leave you gaping in bewilderment at the television screen, but Johnson’s purpose is never to ridicule or patronise his young subjects. Instead, by keeping the focus on the very real stories behind these wide-eyed contestants and on the genuine heart behind the garish performances, Sounds Like Teen Spirit becomes more than just a behind the scenes documentary. It’s a charming, moving and ultimately heart-warming testament to the power of dreams to transform the lives of these troubled youngsters, if only for the length of the contest. It’s a strong message, and one that should be celebrated. 4 stars
There are a handful of deleted scenes, plus a short featurette and interviews with director Jamie Johnson and producers Stephen Wooley and Elizabeth Karlsen. 2.5 stars
Features Marina Baltadzi
Director Jamie Jay Johnson
Distributor Warner Music Entertainment
Released September 14