Just ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow at the end of October, a cinema release for the documentary I am Greta. The young environmental activist who started School Strike for the Climate in 2018 is still only 18, but has had a profound effect on environmentalists young and old.
The documentary was made almost single-handedly by Swedish filmmaker Nathan Grossman, who heard about Greta’s lone school strikes outside the Swedish parliament in 2018 and went to talk to her. He was very impressed by her knowledge and determination and asked her permission to film her, not knowing what he would be able to do with the footage.
He couldn’t have imagined how fast Greta’s protests would take off, and how widespread their impact. As millions of other young people followed her example around the world, Greta began being asked to speak to world leaders at the European Parliament, World Economic Forum, and, ultimately at the United Nations Assembly in New York. Since Greta refuses to fly because of its environmental impact, that involved crossing the Atlantic on a sailing boat. That rough crossing, and her address to the UN are the conclusion to the film and the end of Grossman’s year shadowing her.
Grossman says, “This isn’t as much a portrait of Greta, as it is a documentary about this crazy year that she had.” His objective was to tell her story from her perspective, to the extent that, “I had to hunch my back for two years shooting the film because I wanted to be on Greta’s eye level.” He was delighted that she recognised herself in the film – she had admitted that she had worried he would transform her into someone different.
It is salutary that Grossman’s fly-on-the-wall technique also show that Thunberg is not a superhero, as she freely admits. She is only a teenager, and one who is diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. She normally controls the effects of her syndrome with routine and solitude, so the constant, unpredictable travel and social interaction were even more difficult for her.
Thunberg believes that we can all help in the climate crisis, that she is not doing anything different from what any of us could do, and politicians and leaders certainly should do. As she concluded her speech to the U.N., “The world is waking up, and change is coming whether you like it or not.”
The trailer for the documentary would work well in class from B1. It would be worth showing it first without the sound. Pupils will recognise Greta and some of the people and places. Then you could play just the sound. It’s very clear, especially Greta herself, but the images can distract from it. Pupils should be able to pick out certain statements like, “My name is Greta Thunberg and I want you to panic,” or “We will not stop until we are done.” A final showing with both images and sound will allow them to consolidate what they’ve learned.
I am Greta
On general release 29 September
> Greta Thunberg Donates Million Euro Prize
> Greta’s Year
> School Strike for the Planet
> Young Scientist Named Time’s “Kid of the Year”
> Greta’s Speech