These audacious young people, who have decided spontaneously to have a child, fascinate me. Their confidence and willingness to take a risk contrasts sharply from today’s often over-planned lifestyle, where the decision to have children is pushed into a later phase of life, where early pregnancies have become a taboo. I found it interesting to take a closer look at teenage parents. As far as the Swiss law is concerned, they are still too young to take on the responsibility of a child and they are constantly confronted with prejudices and problems in everyday life. At the same time they are bursting with the vitality of life and undergo immense steps in development.
I knew that with this long-term documentation, I was entering into a real adventure. It was not a short undertaking – but a connection over several years – with all the joys and sorrows that make up the lives of young people. For almost four years I accompanied my protagonists in their surroundings, observed them and discussed with them. And so I became a witness to teenagers becoming young adults. The time that elapses is the most obvious with the children: at the beginning they are babies or even still unborn. By the end of the film they have become little personalities. The development of the young people into grown-ups is just as significant. But the changes manifest themselves not so much outwardly, but rather through how we experience them because of what they say, what they think and how they behave.
The film project began with the search for suitable young people. This was full of hindrances. For reasons of data protection, no one was allowed to even give me the addresses of pregnant minors or teenage parents. Young parents are also regarded with great skepticism, so it was not easy to convince them to participate in such an undertaking. And finally, it was the people around them who had to agree to shooting a film. The protagonists were still minors when shooting began and thus not entitled to make their own decisions. They still lived with their parents or in a school for children and youth.
After an intensive year of searching, I found five interesting couples whose differences provided gripping interplay: two teenage couples who were intensely in love, a recently separated couple and two single mothers. One of the two single mothers was supported by her circle of friends, the other lived in a home for mothers. The places where they lived were as different as their personal situations: one lived in the country, the others in the city and all of them in different cantons, which is reflected in the film through the charm of different dialects.
My goal was to portray the protagonists as authentically as possible within the framework of their everyday life. To achieve this, I purposely did a great deal of the shooting myself. I filmed with a small, inconspicuous HDV camera and a transmitter microphone. The multiple stress of being camerawoman, interviewer and sound technician was a huge challenge. This way of working, however, made it possible that, as one single person, I was not a disturbance in intimate situations and that I was able to react flexibly to schedule changes. This was important because in the life of my protagonists, plans, decisions and deadlines often change very spontaneously.
To maintain continuity in my film plan, I made sure that I went to film all those involved at least once every season. In addition, I documented them once a year with the support of a film team and on these days of shooting I took advantage of being free from technology so that I could concentrate on our conversations.
Every filming session had its surprises and every time these young people captivated me anew. Over the years, we grew closer to each other. But one thing remained clear: I was the filmmaker, not their friend or social worker.
It is only natural that difficulties also arose over the course of long-term shooting. I was often confronted with youthful unreliability. Sometimes the teenies simply had no more money to call me. Or they changed their mobile phone numbers and forgot to tell me. After a year of shooting, one of the young mothers had to leave the project because of severe threats from her father and this bothered me deeply. But so did the problems that all the protagonists encountered in their real, everyday lives. Their problems affected me much more than the difficulties in my own work. There were also many exhilarating moments while we were filming, which made me, personally, very happy. All these phases of ups and downs can now be followed in the film.
After shooting was over, the work process continued into the editing phase: 150 hours of film material had to be shortened into two hours. We had to portray three and a half years in the lives of three teenage mothers within a timeframe of 90 minutes. In doing this, I was determined never to overstep the fine line between revealing and exposing, which led me to the decision not to integrate one of the teenage mothers into my film. Divulging their faces would have been too serious and too burdensome for both the mother and her child. In the end, the reduction to three stories of development turned out to be a great advantage. The film gained clarity and density.
When I began researching this film project, I was 44 years old and mother of an 11-year-old son myself. I grappled intellectually and intensely with the field of tension between hostility to children in our society and the individual, archaic desire to have children. During my research on this subject, I met very courageous young mothers who, with great commitment, professed their devotion to their children. I was instantly fascinated by these teenage mothers, their determination and their confident attitude towards life. It was they who convinced me to make a film that very consciously concentrates on optimism and the courage to deal with life. For once, it should not be a film that focuses on death, destruction or hardship, as is so often the case in gripping documentaries. I knew that I would not be doing myself a favor if I dealt with this subject „dramaturgically“. I decided voluntarily to renounce to many emotions that arise out of pity.
Once I had found a concept for the film, I got to work. Now I knew that I wanted to make a long-term documentation in which the most existential question of all is at the core. That is, about the courage it takes to bring a child into the world. I was convinced that a portrait of young teenage mothers would touch the viewers if I could show with what amazing energy these young people defy resistance and with how much vim, vigor and vitality each of them chooses her own way.
Now I am almost 50 years old. In retrospect I see the four years that I spent with the young mothers and fathers as a great gift. Their stories show that life is full of surprises and that even in crisis situations new solutions can be found.