Sounds Like Teen Spirit
We all know what a sham Eurovision is, right? Even Terry Wogan knows what a sham it is plastic pop, a manufactured bubble of blowdried hair and blowdried brains, all fake tans, fake teeth and fake songs.
On the surface if it, the Junior Eurovision is little different.
However this film shows that the reality is, in fact, far more loveable.
For instance, the kids shown in this 'Popumentary' are all genuine. Having written their own songs, they are taking part in the contest not as part of a cynical career move or even some ironic kitsch joke, but because they love music and they genuinely believe that the show is some way of promoting it. Despite their talents and apparent ability to motivate themselves without a pushy parent in sight, they are all still 'just kids' and the film makes this obvious, showing along with their dreams and lack of self consciousness, their awkwardness and their vulnerability.
Yet they all have loads of fun.
Interestingly, the film makers say that the most interesting contestants were knocked out before the finals - isn't that always likely to the the case in a competition that values form over content? - and it was also notable that only one of the finalists were actually 'a band' (and they came 3rd from bottom!). However, the director Jamie Jay Johnson still manages to pick up on a host human stories and insights; for instance the Cypriot contestant, 10 year old Giorgos, who wanted to do well to beat the bullies at his school who called him 'gay' for preferring singing to football, and Marina from Bulgaria who hopes to succeed in a vain attempt to impress her absent father and show him that he left something good behind... If he's watching, that means he cares.". There's also the Russian girls singing Whitney Houston songs on the stairs, the Belgian cowboy-clad line dancers, and the Dalton Sisters whose absurdly catchy self titled ditty is accompanied by a dance on wheelies. However the star of the film turns out to be Mari from Georgia; not only does she finish the highest placed of all the featured kids (coming 4th), she also has to contend with poverty, war and destruction in her homeland, and her success at the final means that she returns a national hero.
In fact when you see the contrast of Mari's dour homelife with the plush existence of her fellow competitors, and when you hear that she couldn't make the film's preview due to the Russian tanks on the streets of her homeland, you start to half believe the film's humorous subtext, that the power of music can overcome all obstacles to European harmony. Some clever juxtapositions, careful editing and masterful camera work seek to underline this point. A point which of course we know is rubbish.
In the end, some contestants from Belarus we've not been following win the final and are awarded the perspex trophy a trophy which, we are told, symbolises a lot more, but if the adult version of the contest is anything to go by, I'm not quite sure what.
However the kids we HAVE been following cope well with their disappointment, and in fact seem to have been made better people for the ordeal, while Mari actually seems to have improved her life.
So if you want an amusing, feel good film about the power of music, beautifully produced and with an occasional touch of Borat or Spinal Tap absurdity, this is your flick.
However if like most R*E*P*E*A*T readers you're more interested in the visceral thrill obtained when witnessing the sweat, bum notes and feedback of new live bands playing to a soundman, a drunk and a dog, I'd suggest you get down the Man on the Moon or a Junction Fiver night for a gig.
Whichever way, you'll be sampling the power of music to inspire the teen spirit.