One of the fundamental problems with politics and political activism is the common disconnect between what someone says they believe in and how they actually live their lives. We’ve all witnessed politicians lying, or to be kind, changing their minds after an election. Sometimes it cant be helped, situations or conditions can change, but often it’s because the person is just disingenuous.
It’s refreshing therefore to see the genuine dedication and rigid adherence to beliefs displayed by Greta Thunberg in the documentary I Am Greta.
The film traces Greta’s journey to the UN Climate Action Summit in September 2019. The story begins with her first school strike in Stockholm in 2018. It is an incredibly intimate film focussing often on seemingly innocuous and mundane moments as she organises protests and travels to events across Europe. In many ways the film seems a little too focussed on the minutiae of her life, but what slowly unfolds provides a very a compelling story of a young woman who actually lives the ideology she espouses.
We see her personal struggles, her courage and her determination. We also see just how young she is and why she is so passionate about her cause.
The camera follows her as she has moments of doubt, tender interactions with her father and awkward encounters with world leaders who seem more interested in photo opportunities than addressing her concerns.
It is this that sets Greta apart from those with power. There is a moment when she is in a grand European palace meeting yet another politician where she says “it all feels so fake, they say what they think you want to hear and then nothing changes.”
In it’s slow gentle way I Am Greta pierces the wall of rhetoric that hides the hypocrisy of almost all the powerful people and all the summits and conferences that ultimately achieve very little.
What is very clear is that Thunberg has made waves and her celebrity is something that a lot of people wish to cash in on. She has of course also earned the ire of people who deny climate change. Despite being a minor, she is not immune from some pretty awful criticism.
Curiously, the tactics used against her are not based on any factual rebuttal. She is accused of being ignorant, rude and arrogant. In one particularly toe curling scene, we see footage from a Fox News show where the anchor belittles her as being mentally ill because she is on the Aspergers spectrum.
It is those insults about her mental health that grate the most. Thunberg is clearly incredibly intelligent, thoughtful, well-educated and cares deeply about people and animals. She can articulate a position simply and honestly. Her criticisms of society and politicians are razor sharp and accurate. To belittle her for living with Aspergers is cowardly and ignorant.
Given that Fox News supports a President whose behaviours have been associated with possible mental illness, it is galling to see this thrown at Thunberg.
Ultimately this is the problem with the people who oppose her. They never offer any factual rebuttal against any of the evidence about climate change, they just utilise deflection and insults.
It could be argued that this film is propaganda, but it is impossible to watch it and not be filled with admiration for Greta Thurnberg. We see a young woman on a genuine mission driven by a heartfelt love of nature and animals and a deep seated fear that we are killing ourselves. It also illustrates quite starkly that Greta, unlike all those politicians and lobbyist claiming to be making a difference, actually lives the way she says we all should.
I AM GRETA
In New Zealand Cinemas 16 October 2020
Starring: Greta Thunberg
Directed by: Nathan Grossman