Runs Fri., Feb. 28–Thurs., March 6 at SIFF Film Center. Not rated. 75 minutes.
Sailing solo around the world is a pursuit for loners and obsessives, most of them men. Yet there’s a subset of such mariners: those trying to set records not for speed but youth. Dutch teenager Laura Dekker gained fame for her attempt at circumnavigation before she even left port; family-court hearings were held, to great European interest, to determine if she had the right—even with the permission of her divorced parents—to undertake such a risky voyage. American director Jillian Schlesinger skips most of the hoopla and courtroom proceedings, and her documentary mainly relies on Dekker’s own video footage. The effect is like a 75-minute-long selfie, as Dekker cheerfully narrates her voyage in diary form, showing us ravioli mishaps, resting birds, visiting dolphins, and new hairstyles. (Her soliloquies are half English, half subtitled.) Yet never do we see any ferocious storms or menacing sharks; the hazards here are mostly downplayed.
For viewers with a sailing background, Maindentrip is the like the anti-All Is Lost : Everything that can go right does go right. Schlesinger is vague about the sponsors of Dekker’s adventure, though her 40-foot ketch is festooned with various corporate logos. Also, Dekker’s obsessive-seeming father, who raised her on the water, clearly has some control issues with his daughter; one also has to wonder if he had some commercial interests at stake.
Should you take your daughters to see the movie? Sure—Dekker emerges as a thoroughly likable and self-reliant young woman (age 16 at journey’s end in 2012). She covets her independence, telling us “I don’t like it when people tell me what to do.” In Schlesinger’s careful editing, we see the preternaturally poised young Dekker grow into herself and her autonomy. I don’t think many parents would send their girls out to sea to follow her, but she seems an excellent role model in all other respects. Except for the ravioli.