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SXSW Film: One Maiden's Fantastic Voyage

Maidentrip filmmakers

A word of warning: if you're going to see “Maidentrip” at SXSW Film this week (and by all means, you should), you may want to secure a large line of credit beforehand, as afterwards you'll likely have the inclination to go out, buy a boat, and set off to circumnavigate the globe.

You may also want to invest in a time machine while you're at it, so you can travel back to your teenage years to start your journey on the seas. Solo. Such is the inclination (and inspiration) of 14-year old Dane Laura Dekker, who set out in August 2010 to be the youngest person to ever sail around the world solo, a journey beautifully captured in this documentary.

Next time your teenage daughter asks to take out the car on Friday night, think of Dekker, who asked to take the boat out for a few years instead. The film follows the precocious girl on her boat Guppy, utilizing footage taken mostly by Laura herself, on a 17-month voyage navigating both the open seas and her teenage years. (She could have done it faster, she says in the film but she wanted to take time to see the world.) She encounters storms, weeks without wind, new friends and some amazing displays of nature. She also captures herself: a joyful, pensive personality that longs for solitude and independence, which she finds plenty of in the middle of the Atlantic. 

Maidentrip utilizes some beautiful watercolor animation to map the journey, and also mines Dekker's childhood to illuminate what's behind her desire and determination. First-time director Jillian Schlesinger came across the story in the newspaper, during a lengthy court casein the Netherlands where Dekker had to fight just to legally be able to make the journey.

"I felt like her point of view wasn't rally represented anywhere," Schlesinger said during a Q&A session after a screening this week. "I was curious about who this girl was and wanted to give her an opportunity to tell her story in a film." 

That film involved years of work for the director, setting up cameras for Dekker to film herself and meeting her in various ports of call. Once all the footage was done, the director and Dekker spent a month in New York just going through it. 

The result is an inspiration, a film that captures what it's like to be an extraordinary teenager in extraordinary circumstances. "Once I asked what she would tell other kids who have a dream," the director said. "She said, 'If you want to do something, you don't have to know that you can do it. You just try.'"

Maidentrip has two more screenings at this year's SXSW Film Festival, today at the Alamo Village and tomorrow at the Rollins Theater inside the Long Center. 

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