Imagine that your child is a top athlete at a very young age. How do you and your child deal with the pressure to perform, expectations and disappointments that come with it? To what extent do you choose for your child or for yourself?
Director Esther Pardijs is the mother of such a child and gives with her documentary ‘Turn!’ a peek into their world. We see several guys whose lives are all about gymnastics. Even more important are the parents we follow. They all have the same uncertainties and questions. Are we doing the right thing for our child? The documentary portrays that struggle well, sometimes when Pardijs’s son has to choose between training for a match or going to a children’s party, or when one of the boys is training crying. You very much wonder whether those children can still really be children. Yet you see that the parents obviously want the very best for their child. The only question is what is best.
There are a number of very strong characters in the film, such as the rock-hard trainer that the boys have palpable fear of. He speaks clear language and you notice that the parenting aspect counts less for him. The most important thing is that the boys become the very best gymnasts and there is also a very fanatical father who goes through fire for the sports career of his son. He is so critical that he is no longer welcome to come and watch during the training sessions.
Still, Pardijs sometimes puts too much emphasis on herself, for example because of the voice-over in which she wants to explain too much while the film is already so clear and which towards the end is even somewhat clichéd with statements such as: “Isn’t a loser right sometimes? a winner?”
“Turn!” mainly relies on his surprising subject matter and his honest, sincere look. It is a world that few people know and that is fascinating to discover. Cinematographically, “Turn!” less exciting, but again clear and fresh. “Turn!” is well worth seeing and is not for nothing nominated for a Golden Calf in the best short documentary category.