Sounds Like Teen Spirit

Sounds Like Teen Spirit

DVD Rating: *****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Read Jennie Kermode's film review of Sounds Like Teen Spirit

What comes across in these DVD extras is the character of director Jamie Jay Johnson and the realisation, emphasised in interviews with producers Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley, that without him Sounds Like Teen Spirit might never have been made, or, if it had, would have taken a completely different slant on The Junior Eurovision Song Contest, possibly cynical, almost certainly mocking, rather than what it is, inclusive and affectionate.

Johnson has a self-deprecating sense of humour that is irresistible, unthreatening and sweetly charming. He gained the trust of the kids by being himself, natural and unaffected. Carrying a camera, with a colleague on sound, he travelled to 14 countries, returning with 200 hours of film (“The editing took seven months”). His determination, dedication and steely resolve is disguised by a delightfully innocent demeanour. He likes to praise the children for their contribution and does so with genuine humility.

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And the children are remarkable. You see more of them in Behind The Scenes and it’s obvious, as Woolley says, that being in the final “is an extraordinary experience for them.” As the beautiful Elianna, 10-year-old Giorgo’s younger sister, says about happiness, never having known it before now, and the girl from Armenia who announces, overwhelmed by the joy of the moment, “I will tell of this to my children and the children of my children.”

Johnson went to every country to cover their national competitions, choosing who would represent them at Rotterdam. “All the characters I liked lost,” he admits, sadly. In the end, from the winners, they chose the ones who spoke the best English, “basically our favourites, the ones we wanted to hang out with.” Britain, France and Germany did not enter, because of poor showings in the past, although Belgium did, much to Johnson’s delight, although the singer he preferred was pipped at the post by a four piece pop group. What made up for it was going to Georgia, such a contrast to the sophistication of Cyprus and Northern Europe. He savoured its Borat moments and loved its food.

As DVD packages go, this one goes all the way. It has been put together with loving care – Jamie J must have had a hand in its creation – and does something almost unique in the art of the bonus extra; you don’t want it to end and for once there are not enough deleted scenes.

Wow! How cool is that?

PS: Johnson’s previous documentaries were about a mini golf championship and the slowest swimmer in Olympic history, celebrating, as he points out, “the spirit of loveable losers.” Knowing this will make you feel safe at Eurovision Jr.

Reviewed on: 07 Sep 2009
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Sounds Like Teen Spirit packshot
A documentary following contestants in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest.
Amazon link

Product Code: VFD35732

Region: 2

Sound: Dolby Digital

Extras: Press conference with director Jamie Jay Johnson and producer Stephen Woolley; Q&A with Jamie J Johnson , Giorgos and Elianna; Behind The Scenes with Jamie J Johnson; interview with producer Elizabeth Karlsen; interview with producer Stephen Woolley; deleted scenes; winning song; all songs roundup; director's note book

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