As a new staffer, my goal was to watch all of the films in this year’s Festival. Well, I have almost hit that goal and I can tell you that this year will certainly not disappoint. We have more diversity in our films this year than ever before. As a mother of a seven year old daughter and an 18-month old son, it is important to me that Heartland continues to program films that allow me to bring my children to see uplifting, well-made and thoughtful movies. From the more serious Alabama Moon to the light-hearted and hysterical Nativity! to a story of courage and compassion in First Dog, there are plenty of options for you and your family.
For me, I was really taken by the film Summer Eleven, a story about the lives of four 11-year old girls and their families over the course of their summer break. This incredible coming-of-age film reminds us of the importance of true friendship and accepting people for who they are. Summer Eleven covers so many relevant topics going on right now including homelessness, divorce, class prejudice, death and so much more. This film takes these four girls on a journey of discovering what matters the most and how the bonds of friendship can get you through even the most difficult of situations.
What I truly enjoyed about this film is how the filmmakers intertwined the family dynamic of each girl into the story so well. The story begins with Vanessa who is an aspiring young actress living with her single mother who focuses all of her energy on her daughter’s blossoming career. Jess is a strong young lady but struggles to cope with her mother’s overbearing live-in boyfriend and the reality of not getting to spend time with her father. Perry and her brother and mother are dealing with the embarrassment of living out of their mother’s car after she lost her job and her marriage, while Lizzie and her parents pray for her brother Jerry who is serving overseas in the war.
As the story unfolds, you begin to find out more about the struggles each of these families are dealing with and how the values of the parents shape the lives of these four young girls. What starts off as one mother questioning the parenting skills of another turns into a realization that her priorities are all askew, turning her focus into an incredible act of kindness. Another family struggles with the aftermath of the affects of war and finds that the selflessness and innocence of childhood can break the barriers of even the most difficult of situations. Summer Eleven is an inspiring true-to-life depiction of the ups and downs of four young girls and how their deep bonds carry them through as they start begin a new chapter of their lives in middle school.
I hope you have the opportunity to see this movie with your family, especially if you have young daughters. It truly is what the Heartland Film Festival is all about!