Metro Weekly

Reel Affirmations Review: ‘Hello World’

A Norwegian documentary about four 12-to-13 year-old LGBTQ teens going through the highs and lows of being openly queer in school.

Hello World

Queerness is universal. It’s one of the first things noticeable about this Norwegian documentary by Kenneth Elvebakk about four 12-to-13 year-old LGBTQ teens going through the highs and lows of being openly queer in school. Over the course of three years, the teens show four vastly unique experiences of being a queer teenager, while being refreshingly honest about their strengths and struggles.

Following two boys and two girls across different towns, the documentary weaves their stories of growing up with their queerness. Victor, a farmer’s son in a small town, shows the first hardships in quietly haunting ways, detailing how his female friends were “happy to have a gay friend” while his male peers wanted nothing to do with him, to how his father is “80 percent okay” with him being gay.

Joachim presents something completely different, being proud of his femininity and not requiring people to support his identity, but demanding it, as he proudly wears make-up to school inspired by his favorite RuPaul’s Drag Race queens. The two boys have almost opposite situations, but often experience varying degrees of the same homophobia.

Dina and Runa, two open lesbians, initially seem to have an easier time, with both of their friends and family quickly accepting their lesbian identity. However, their paths quickly diverge, with the story contrasting Runa’s first love and finding community as Dina struggles with depression and self-esteem issues. While all the kids’ parents accept their identities, the teens still experience a lot of loneliness in their queerness, and often are unsure of how to navigate their daily anxieties over being different.

As the documentary sees the teens through class, dances, camp, and family, it focuses more on the trials of the teens rather than crafting an overall singular narrative, often weaving swiftly through contrasting moments with some questions about what is happening. Many times a teen will begin an anecdote about something only for it to abruptly cut to another teen, going through something completely different. The story usually centers itself on the occasional tangent through its subjects who are more than able to tell their own stories.

Luckily, by choosing to highlight every low moment with beautiful queer happiness, Hello World (★★★★☆) escapes its narrative woes by showing the growth of its subjects. The enchanting part is the universal experience of being queer that flows throughout the film. Despite how far Norway is, the experiences of the teens are not different from the ones queer people in America face, which is even more pressing in an age with increasing attacks against LGBTQ kids. The teens display amazing honesty toward their struggles, not being afraid to vocalize their bad days, while showing strength in the face of their adversities.

While Hello World won’t change the documentary game, it’s an important viewing with queer happiness being the vibrant message it wants to leave you with. From the lows of depression, bullying, and loneliness to the highs of queer love, family acceptance, and extraordinary strength by such young kids, this documentary will stick with any of its queer viewers for a long time. 

Hello World is available only in the Reel Affirmations virtual festival through Sunday, Oct. 23 at 11:59 p.m. Click here for details on how to watch.

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