By Don Simpson | January 14, 2014
Director: Jillian Schlesinger
In 2009, Laura Dekker announced that she planned on sailing around the world alone. Immediately the Dutch government intervened, 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. Eventually, a Dutch court ended Dekker’s custody arrangement, thus permitting the 14-year-old Dekker to commence her excursion in a 38 ft two-masted Jeanneau Gin Fizz ketch named Guppy.
Armed with mounted and handheld video cameras, Dekker documents her 16 month journey. Dekker opens up for the cameras, therapeutically utilizing the recordings as a video diary. The camera quickly becomes her friend, her most loyal confidant. As we observe Dekker’s video entries, it quickly becomes apparent that becoming the youngest person to circumnavigate the world is not her motivation. Dekker just wants freedom, and being out at sea provides that for her. Dekker was born sailing, spending the first few years of her life at sea as her parents completed a seven-year sailing trip. Possessing an intense connection with the sea, Dekker owned her first boat at age six and started taking long solo excursions at age ten.
In terms of construction, Jillian Schlesinger’s Maidentrip is fairly simple; yet this documentary serves as an amazing insight into the mind of a teenager. The documentary captures the thoughts and insights of a teenager who has cut themselves of from society for such an extended period of time. The seclusion does occasionally effect Dekker’s mindset, boredom is her biggest enemy; sitting still in the midst of a windless sea is much more frightening to her than the combined terrors of the reefs of the Torres Strait and the storms of the Cape of Good Hope.
While we know that this footage is heavily edited, Dekker still provides us with a frank interpretation of her journey. Understandably, family plays a significant role in this story, as Dekker contemplates what her mother, father and sister mean to her. The solitary nature of this trip allows Dekker to think about the meaning of her existence and what makes her happy. It might make one wonder if more teenagers should have this opportunity to call a temporary “time out” and really consider the meaning and purpose of their lives.
Not knowing how Dekker’s journey ends will certainly make Maidentrip all the more enthralling. Dekker’s story has stirred up a lot of debate over the abilities of minors to make their own decisions. Maidentrip effectively takes that debate head-on, giving us Dekker’s 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. A transcendent coming of age story, Maidentrip serves as a perfect vehicle for female and teenage empowerment.