This is a special documentary, particularly to watch with tweens. I Am Eleven is a loving celebration of the triumphs and tragedies of being 11 the world over, and any young viewer will learn a lot about the similarities and differences of living anywhere from the United Kingdom to the Czech Republic to Bulgaria. It will come as no surprise that each of the featured 11-year-olds has dealt with or witnessed bullying, the challenges of maintaining close friendships, and even discrimination. But it's so poignant to see how open and willing to talk these tweens are, no matter how shy they might seem at first. Bailey coaxes them to reveal their innermost thoughts about love, the future, and what makes them unique; the result is a powerful reminder of the optimism of youth.
Bailey is so committed to the global nature of the project that she's sometimes a bit too eager to jump from kid to kid. The stories she captures are all compelling, but each kid is only on screen for a few minutes (some more than others), making you wish she'd lingered longer on some of them. While deeper background or context about the kids' home lives would have been helpful, it's understandable why Bailey maintains the focus on the kids at a certain age, rather than their families or personal situations. They're all interesting (or "fascinating," as Jamira from Australia would say), but some of the kids emerge as real scene stealers -- like Billy, the autistic boy from England who isn't shy about anything (like the fact that his favorite movie is Dirty Dancing); Osama and Sahin, the Muslim Swedes who love to rap; Remi, the wise-beyond-his-years pacifist who lives off the grid in the South of France; and lovely Jamira, who's half-Irish, half-Aborigine and thinks it's awesome to be of mixed heritage. At the end, Bailey reconnects with some of the kids as teens, which underscores her message that 11 really is an awesome age.