‘I Am Greta’ is a new documentary about Greta Thunberg. It follows her story from her first solitary strike outside the Swedish parliament, invitations to speak at major centres of power in Europe, and her rapid rise to prominence as a global icon.
The film culminates with Greta’s voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to speak at the UN Climate Summit in New York and the climate rallies at that time – the largest in history.
With some luck, the Swedish filmmaker Nathan Grossman was there from the beginning. With tenacity, he was able to provide an insight into what life was like for Greta. And he’s certainly managed to convey the breakneck speed at which things unfolded.
“It’s a film which brings you into the eye of the storm. The way the influence of Greta and the youth climate movement grew in just one year is really quite crazy, and historic.” ~ Nathan Grossman
We’ve done a short 6-minute review of ‘I Am Greta’ – which includes some clips –
How the film came about
Grossman first heard about Greta and her plan to strike outside the Swedish parliament through a friend who knew the family. Out of interest, the filmmaker went down to film her on her very first day outside the parliament with her ‘School Strike for Climate’ sign.
He had no idea at that stage where things would end up for Greta or for his film. The thinking then was that it could be a short film or part of a series on youth activists.
But he did realise there was something special about Greta. He was intrigued by her physical expressions and impressed by her responses to the people who stopped to speak with her. Gradually other people came and sat and striked with her.
Then things began to spread to other parts of Scandinavia, the media started to run stories on her, and school strikes began to happen in other parts of the world. Grossman realised this could be a bigger film and started to work on it full-time.
The intimacy of the film
‘I Am Greta’ is almost entirely shot and recorded by Grossman. It’s essentially a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Greta’s life as she balances home and school life with leading climate protests and holding world leaders to account.
It is an intimate film. As Grossman says, our images of Greta until now have been from a distance – at rallies, press conferences, and large forums like the UN.
He wanted to get closer and make his film from Greta’s point of view. As a result, a lot of the shooting he did was down at her level. He’s also used Greta’s narration of her diaries over the footage to hear her thinking.
“I wanted to make a movie where you get inside her head and feel how it is in her world.” ~ Nathan Grossman
Grossman and the film’s editors have also included some subtle aspects of Greta’s life that help lay the foundation for her passion. She obviously loves horses and there’s an unusual where she hugs a pony. I could describe this scene in more detail but it probably wouldn’t do it justice. You can see in that short clip her deep connection and love of the natural world.
The highs and lows
The film shows the highs and lows for Greta. There are many challenges for her – the extensive traveling, the disruption to her life, the pressure of the media, the trolls on social media, people taking selfies with her, meeting world leaders, speaking at major conferences, not to mention the reality of inaction on climate change.
Over the year and over the course of the film you can see her growing disillusionment with the leaders who say they support her and then do nothing. You’ll see her speeches become increasingly pithy.
“We haven’t taken to the streets for you to take selfies with us and tell us you admire what we do” ~ Greta Thunberg
Toward the end of the film, she makes the 2 week trip across the Atlantic Ocean to attend the climate conference at the UN in New York. The pressure takes its toll. “I don’t want to have to do all this. It’s too much for me,” she sobs.
By the time you reach this part of the film, you begin to realise why she was so emotional at that speech at the UN – probably her most famous appearance.
Coming of age
In a way this documentary is a coming-of-age film. Initially shy and socially isolated, through her climate movement she connects with like-minded young people and she finds her place in the world – clearly driven to make a difference.
What’s also interesting is her relationship with her Dad. Svante Thunberg accompanies and supports her on her many trips. He’s a likeable character but, as parents do, worries about her and tries to protect her. There are moments the teenager shoos her Dad away – as teenagers do.
Greta Thunberg wants people to focus on the issue of climate change rather than her personally. She makes that clear in the movie.
But whether she likes it or not the world does have a fascination with her. Perhaps because she is so sharp and articulate on climate. Perhaps because she represents the next generation admonishing the current one. Maybe because the world dearly wants a circuit breaker after years of going nowhere on climate. Whichever way, she there’s no going back to the anonymous life she had pre-2018.
The other obvious thing is that this film is ‘I Am Greta’. It is about her. She is the focus.
So there is a bit of a conundrum. One that constantly hangs over Greta and possibly over this film.
Despite that minor niggle, ‘I Am Greta’ is engrossing and well worth watching.
It is an important moment in history for humanity and the emergence of such an articulate voice for the next generation at this point, especially one so young, is significant.
The timing of Greta Thunberg’s emergence has indeed been remarkable. And Nathan Grossman’s timing of being there right at the start to document it was both a stroke of luck but also some pretty good intuition and management on his part.
Grossman did well to earn Greta’s trust to film so intimately. And to stick so doggedly with her through much of what happened – publicly and privately. It’s also a well-made film. The production is slick.
Greta’s response to the film
Greta has said she is happy about the film’s portrayal of her.
A key reason is that it debunks many of the critics’ claims e.g. that she was being manipulated and others were writing speeches for her.
It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out for Greta in the years to come. She is still only 17. Her story is far from over. No doubt we’re going to see more documentaries about her.
Watch ‘I Am Greta’
Interview with the Director
This interview with the Director Nathan Grossman for the Toronto International Film Festival provides some interesting insights into the making of the film …
Film details for ‘I Am Greta’
Director and Cinematographer: Nathan Grossman
Producer: Fredrik Heinig & Cecilia Nessen, B-Reel Films
Music: Jon Ekstrand & Rebekka Karijord, Oona Recordings
Length: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Greta Thunberg’s best speeches
The film shows a little of Greta’s speeches. We’ve written a post that has a full version of Greta’s best speeches – with a video and transcript for each.
Greta Thunberg’s best quotes
We’ve pulled out the best of what Greta has had to say and posted a collection of her best quotes.
World environmental leaders
We are interviewing and writing profiles on the world’s environmental leaders.
Have you seen ‘I Am Greta’? Let us know what you think about it in the Comments.
Have you not seen ‘I Am Greta’ and just want to have a rant and dump on Greta …. please see the film (and read the science.)