By: Alberto Sclaverano
Reflecting on Greta Thunberg's role and legacy in the fight against the climate crisis
I Am Greta is a 2020 documentary film directed by Nathan Grossman and starring Greta Thunberg herself. After premiering at the 2020 Venice International Film Festival, it was released the same year through an online platform in the United States. Since then, it has been made available on video on demand in several other countries. The story of Greta Thunberg is well known worldwide, especially among people concerned about climate change.
At age fifteen, Greta Thunberg launched a small school strike in her Sweden hometown, demanding the government do more to tackle the climate crisis. Once alone, she was soon joined by other students, first in her home country and then in other ones. The international movement from that event, known as Fridays for Future, has involved millions of young people and reached a global scale. In the spring of 2019, Fridays for Future protests became a world phenomenon. Now a full-time climate activist, Greta Thunberg has addressed the 2018 United States Climate Change Conference and the 2019 Climate Action Summit. Thunberg's experience has inspired an entire generation of young activists.
Grossman followed Greta Thunberg for about a year, between August 2018 and September 2019. He entered contact with Greta through a friend who also knew Greta's mother. So, he had the opportunity to film the young activist from the beginning of her fight. I Am Greta is fascinating because it gives us a complete vision of Greta's path. She went from solitary school striking to meeting global leaders in a relatively short time. The first part is the most fascinating. Greta every Friday goes on strike alone. Ordinary people in Sweden observe her, someone talks to her, but no one seems to care. An older woman, for example, says that while she agrees with the issue raised by the young girl, she thinks skipping school is a great mistake.
Things soon change, classmates join Greta, and she becomes an internet celebrity. The Fridays for Future's global movement begins. Greta starts receiving invitations to international conferences, where she meets many important people. Some seem interested in her message, like French President Emmanuel Macron and E.U. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker; others do not. Former U.S. President Donald Trump's juvenile rivalry with Greta has been well documented.
The last part of the movie brings in an "adventure" element. To participate in the 2019 Climate Action Summit in New York, Greta travelled across the Atlantic Ocean alongside Pierre Casiraghi on his solar-powered racing yacht. She thought it was the only acceptable way of reaching the U.S. because of its low carbon footprint. Greta gave her now famous speech at the conference, asking world leaders: "How dare you!"
This film is not too optimistic. Despite all of the fame, Greta has grown tired. The more people she meets in positions of power, the more she recognizes the empty words, the attempts of greenwashing, and an absence of urgency in dealing with the climate crisis. Yet, she remains unwavering and steadfast in her commitment to the planet. This movie helps us reflect on how everyone can make a difference, but also about how activists and politicians perceive the climate crisis. It is not just about the extraordinary history of Greta Thunberg. It invites us to reflect on the meaning of activism and engaging in social causes, especially as a younger generation.