“Sometimes it feels as though it’s only those with autism who see through the static,” says Greta Thunberg during a quieter moment in this personal new documentary. The teen activist is sat alone outside Swedish parliament in 2018. Beside her, a homemade sign reads ‘Skolstrejk För Klimatet’ (“School strike for climate”). It’s hard to fathom that, just two years later, this small protest has grown into a worldwide environmental movement – and propelled Thunberg to global fame. Arguably, she is overdue the big-screen treatment.
Directed by Nathan Grossman, I Am Greta is packed with intimate footage – from video calls home to rehearsal sessions for important United Nations speeches. A standout moment arrives in the aftermath of Thunberg’s first United Nations address at the Climate Change Conference in 2018. Amid the media frenzy, one microphone picks up an exchange between father and daughter as they disappear down a long corridor. Dad suggests that no one will know who she is on Monday, Greta replies, “That’ll be nice.”
There is a deep irony in that it took this outsider – a teenager with Asperger’s, OCD and selective mutism, who refused to speak to anyone outside of her family for three years – to get the world’s leaders to take this crisis seriously. With dignity and wisdom far beyond her age, she has continued to shine a light on the hypocrisy of those in government. In one scene, French President Emmanuel Macron speaks to her like a teacher quizzing a student: “You read a lot on the climate?” “Yes, I read a lot. I’m a nerd,” is her response. You don’t talk down to Greta.
Frustratingly, Grossman’s fly-on-the-wall approach means the film lacks any real objectivity. This is a dispatch from inside the bunker, but that doesn’t mean I Am Greta makes for a plain PR exercise. Grossman is keen to show the personal sacrifices and pain his subject endures for the cause too. He even captures Thunberg reading out hurtful social media comments to her dad. It hits hard.
By the documentary’s end, one of the biggest questions surrounding Greta’s fame still remains: why does this young girl stir up so much anger online? I Am Greta won’t do much to deter the gammons and Twitter trolls, but it highlights how hard it is to remain positive in the face of such hate. It would be nice to think that this film might ease the burden on Thunberg’s shoulders. Not that she needs it.
- Director: Nathan Grossman
- Starring: Greta Thunberg, Malena Ernman, Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Release date: October 16 (cinemas)