A MOvie BY Anka Schmid
Women have children. But when you’re not even eighteen - like Sandra, Jasmine and Jennifer – and your belly begins to grow, people stare at you and frown. And once the baby is born, it turns out that life with a child is much more challenging than you ever imagined in all your pink teenage dreams. A refreshing long-term study of three very young mothers, their children and the fathers. A film about the first great love, career plans and dreams for the future. But above all, a film about the courage and unwavering confidence that is necessary when you’re at an age where others blithely enjoy being young – and you take on the responsibility of a child.
Format: 35mm / 1:1.85
Languages: Swiss German
Subtitles: German, French, English
24. – 30. November, Tübingen, Germany
27. September – 9. Oktober, Lithuania
29. May - 5. June, Czech Republic
20. - 29. May, Great Britain
14. February 2011 – Replays 15. + 17. February 2011
Solothurner Filmtage: 23. January 2011 Replays 25. January 2011
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.
Jennifer and Mwathi live in the same home for children and youth. With over a hundred love letters, Mwathi finally wins Jennifer’s heart. In her last year of school Jennifer gets pregnant. A month after graduation, her little daughter Tanijsha is born.
Jennifer is 17 and lives with her 2-month-old baby together with her mother and sister in the Bernese Oberland. She takes care of her baby, while Mwathi (16) continues living in the home for youth and completes his tenth year of school. The young couple has just recently split up.
What happens in the next three years is told in the film …
Jennifer (21) now has her own apartment with her little daughter Tanijsha (3). Her mother, sisters and other relatives live nearby and help her because Jennifer works part-time in an old folks’ home. She has begun a training program and has to travel to Berne every Monday.
Mwathi (20), after difficult times, now has more contact with his daughter. He is completing a year of career-preparation training and spends a lot of time with his Rap band S.O.L. (States of Lyrics).
Jasmine and Roman fall in love with each other in the classroom. In her last year of school, Jasmine gets pregnant. The young lovers move into an apartment of their own, together with another couple.
Armando is born in autumn of 2005. Jasmine has just turned 18, Roman 15. The two live through wild ups and downs in their relationship.
Two days before shooting starts, the two separate. Little Armando is 10 months old. Jasmine (18) lives alone with her child in social housing near Basel. Her friends assist her and her „main job“ is caring for her child.
And what happens in the years 2007, 2008, and 2009 is told in the film …
Jasmine (22) still lives in the same apartment, but it looks much different now. Recently, she has renovated it together with her friend Elso (21). Armando (4) still spends his weekdays in the home for children. Jasmine wants him to live with her at home as soon as he begins kindergarten in the coming summer. She works in various jobs to earn money.
Sandra and Marcel meet via chatting. Both are in their apprenticeships: she as salesgirl in a bakery, he as carpenter. After 3 months Sandra becomes pregnant.
Both live at home with their families in Canton Lucerne. Sandra is 17 and Marcel has just turned 18. Their child will be born in two months. The couple plans to move into their own apartment. Both will have to take their final apprenticeship exams in the coming summer.
What happens in the years 2007, 2008 and 2009 is told in the film …
Sandra and Marcel have two children: Jason (3) and Dean (1) and they live in their third apartment together near Lucerne. Marcel works 100% and Sandra has several different part-time jobs – mostly on weekends or evenings, so Marcel can take care of the children.
Assistant: Guido Helbling
in coproduction with
Swiss television, Editor Urns Augsburg
SRG SSR idée Suisse, Editor Alberto Cholet
Swiss Federal Office of Culture (EDI), Switzerland
Züricher Filmstiftung (Zurich Film Foundation)
Kulturförderung des Kantons Luzern (Cultural promotion of Canton Lucerne)
Ernst Göhner Foundation
Kulturstiftung Winterthur (Culture Foundation of Winterthur)
Verena Conzett and Wilhelmine Manz-Foundation
Stage Pool Focal
Succès Cinéma / Succès passages antennes
with Sandra Reinhard-Troxler, Marcel Troxler, Jason & Dean · Jasmine Suter, Armando · Jennifer Aeschbacher, Moses Mwathi Wario, Tanijsha Aliya script & Direction Anka Schmid Montage Marina Wernli, Matthias Bürcher Photography Patrick Lindenmaier, Anka Schmid Original Sound Dieter Meyer, Anka Schmid Music Peter Broker Songs Black Tiger, States of Lyrics Sounddesign & Mix Christian Beusch Producer Franziska Reck A RECK Filmproduktion Zürich in Coproduction With Schweizer Fernsehen Editor Urs Augstburger SRG SSR Idée Suisse Editor Alberto Chollet supported by Bundesamt für Kultur (EDI) Schweiz, Zürcher Filmstiftung, Suissimage, Kulturförderung des Kanton Luzern, Ernst Göhner Stiftung, Volkart Stiftung, Kulturstiftung Winterthur, Verena Conzett und Wilhelmine Manz-Stiftung, Stage Pool Focal, Succès Cinéma / Succès passages antennes