“My name is Greta Thunberg.”

I am Greta - PosterThe story of teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg is told through compelling, never-before-seen footage in this intimate documentary from Swedish director Nathan Grossman. Starting with her one-person school strike for climate action outside the Swedish Parliament, Grossman follows Greta—a shy student with Asperger’s in her rise to prominence and her galvanizing global impact as she sparks school strikes around the world. The film culminates with her extraordinary wind-powered voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to speak at the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City.

Nathan Grossman’s I am Greta, is a touching portrait of young activist Greta Thunberg. But above all, it is a film about perseverance and the environmental cause.

How it all started…

Sometimes you start a project without knowing where it will lead. For Grossman, it is exactly what happened.

IAM GRETA - How it all started

“A friend of mine had met the Thunberg family, and they had told him Greta was planning to do a sit-down strike to protest for the climate because she felt that no one was doing anything. The national election was coming up in Sweden and she wanted to show how important this issue was. We stayed in the background and thought we could shoot a day or two and see what happened.

I saw her sitting by herself with a sign and asked if I could put a mic on her and follow her for the day. I told her, “Look, we don’t really know what to do with this. Maybe we can do a short (film), or maybe we can do a series on different child activists, and you can be one of them.” And then things went so quickly.

Indeed… Who could have predicted that this teenager would launch a worldwide movement? In the end, the director will have followed the activist for almost 2 years, all over Europe, and across the Atlantic. This is what the documentary shows.

A portrait or an environmental film?

I am Greta - Portrait or environmental filmI Am Greta is a hybrid between an environmental documentary and a portrait of Thunberg. Although the basic idea is to show who this person of exception is, the film revolves around the cause, because the young woman is inseparable from her message and her cause.

Thus, Grossman follows her everywhere, in public stages, as well as in private. And he seems to have had full access and freedom to film whatever he wanted, in order to show Thunberg at her best, as at her worst. Besides, Greta and her father have no censorship. When the director asks why she embarked on this campaign rather than staying in school like everyone else, the father explains that his daughter was in depression after realizing the environmental reality. She hadn’t smiled for 3 years, she was almost silent. She had severe depression, which lasted for 1 year. A year during which she didn’t go to school. When she embarked on this ecological project, she finally came out of her torpor. When you listen to the story of the father and daughter, you understand why “staying” in school was not really an option.

So it was in 2018 that the Swedish activist, then 15, organized a school strike in front of her country’s parliament building in Stockholm. At first, she sat alone, handing out information and answering questions from passers-by. Slowly others started to join her – and within months she had sparked a worldwide movement.

And now, what do I do?

This film, shot with a huge team of 1 person (95%) therefore gives an intimate portrait of the young woman. Clearly, not having a film crew, just one person, helps create an atmosphere of trust. And it helps to forget the presence of the camera. And what’s even more awesome is that technically speaking, it just doesn’t show. The image is good, the sound is good.

“It’s timing, in the sense that I think the world has waited for someone to express frustration on the topic of climate change for a long time now. Nothing has happened, this panic is rising. And as you see in the film, she has this way to express it that just syncs with where climate change is at the moment. The years of constructive, creative, happy thinking… we’ve had those years, and we’ve had those figures. Now we’re moving into a period when the situation doesn’t look like that anymore. Also, there’s her backstory and her Asperger’s diagnosis. I think people can relate to her.”

I am Greta - And nowThe way the influence of Greta and the youth climate movement grew in just one year is really quite crazy, and historic I think.

No, she’s not always delicate. Yes, she is stubborn. No, she is not always easy to deal with for her father. But by following her path, we better understand these speeches where she does not mince her words. I am thinking, among others, of the famous “How dare you…” speech.

But she shows such determination. She is charismatic. And above all, she is articulate. At 15-16, I was nowhere near as articulate as her. And above all, I was far from being aware of the world around me like her. The scene in which she writes her first UN speech and sends her father “to take a walk” because he wants her to remove an expression that might be not well received is a prime example. Contrary to what some say, she composes her messages and her speeches. They are not written by her parents. And when you see who she is, you can’t really doubt that she is making her decisions for herself.

But what is striking is that when I finished watching the film, I felt empowered to do more. No, I will not go on a crusade across the continent. I don’t have the strength to do this. But I have to do more. The status quo is not an option. And since world leaders refuse to do their job, it is we, the people, who will have to do it. Eat less meat, use a bicycle instead of a car, no longer use vegetable bags at the grocery store. We can all do a little more without it being difficult. Let’s say that it would be a good place to start.

But still…

I have often had heated discussions about Greta Thunberg. Yes, I am one of its defenders. But Grossman will have been able to answer better than I the difficult question of: Why Greta Thunberg? What does she have that her predecessors didn’t? Here is his answer:

“It’s timing, in the sense that I think the world has waited for someone to express frustration on the topic of climate change for a long time now. Nothing has happened, this panic is rising. And as you see in the film, she has this way to express it that just syncs with where climate change is at the moment. The years of constructive, creative, happy thinking… we’ve had those years, and we’ve had those figures. Now we’re moving into a period when the situation doesn’t look like that anymore. Also, there’s her backstory and her Asperger’s diagnosis. I think people can relate to her.”

The takeaway from I Am Greta is that Thunberg and other young people demand a safe future and for leaders to listen to science. But instead, they are greeted with empty words from politicians, when politicians don’t outright ridicule them, or even receive death threats from individuals. This is the source of much of her frustration and as the audience, it is with a lot of that frustration that we leave the dark room.

Yes, COVID19 has slowed down the movement by cutting down the possibility of demonstration. So now is the time to take direct action. Because 2020 is today!

Rating: 9/10

Trailer

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *