Review by March Natrop – please note this is a subjective, single-author review and does not represent Vegan4Life as a whole.
In ‘I am Greta’ we follow famous Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg from her first school strike in May 2018 in front of the Swedish parliament, to her climate speech at the United Nations conference in September 2019 in New York. Viewers who expect an informative documentary about climate change, will be disappointed. Viewers who expect a movie about Greta’s life and how she conquered the world with her activism, will be delighted. This documentary is all about showing the girl behind the movement and does a very decent job at it. We get to know Greta and her family more intimately, and learn about her autism and selective mutism, her loneliness and inability to connect with peers at school, her intense love for her dogs and horses and her aversion to consumerism.
The movie starts with images of Greta on a small boat on a rough ocean, accompanied by her dad and a sailing crew. Later we learn that this is the boat trip that got her from Sweden to the United States to attend the UN climate conference, as Greta refuses to travel by plane to stay carbon neutral. The documentary then goes on to show a lonely activist in front of parliament with a sign saying she is on a school strike for climate change. Over time, Greta becomes a little less lonely, as more and more people join her strike. Her school even supports pupils to strike for the climate every Friday. And as people film her with mobile phones and post about her on social media, awareness for Greta’s cause rapidly grows. Several months in she has a significant international support base and politicians can no longer deny her presence. Greta is not going anywhere. Invitations for various climate summits follow and Greta quickly becomes ‘the voice of the youth for the climate’.
She is bold and direct and calls politicians out on their lack of action and false promises regarding the climate crisis. Some politicians are more accepting of this then others. The President of France invites Greta for a one-on-one meeting and seems very willing to hear her concerns. Trump and Putin on the other hand say some horrible things on national television about her, apparently forgetting Greta is simply a teenage girl who – impressively enough – manages to graduate high school with honours whilst devoting her life to activism and taking weeks off to go to climate conferences.
She continues to give interviews, speak at conferences and march through the streets of Brussels and other European cities with thousands of people. Greta is making herself heard. That in itself is impressive enough, but if you consider the fact that her selective mutism caused her to be unable to speak for hours or sometimes even days at time in the past, it becomes even more impressive! Unfortunately we do not learn too much about her Asperger syndrome or selective mutism in the film, but it is explained that in Greta’s cause, it has fuelled her incredible focus and motivation for the cause. Aspergers can cause people to get fixated on a particular topic and dedicate countless hours of their energy and time on it. In Greta’s own words: “when it comes to the climate, we should all have a little bit of Aspergers”. When an Italian journalist asks Greta ‘if it is true that she suffers from Asperger’s’ she cleverly answers: “I wouldn’t say ‘suffer’, but yes, I have it.” A particularly touching scene is Greta reading out loud on her mobile phone the negative things people post on forums about her, ranging from comments about her autism to swearing, name-calling and even death threats. Initially she is giggling when reading out the reviews. The giggles turn to hysteric laughter and then to crying. The documentary does a great job showing us that this is simply a teenage girl dedicating her life to selflessly trying to make a difference in the world, but who at the end of the day still suffers from hormones, mental health issues and strong emotions, like pretty much any other teenager.
The film has received some really negative reviews unfortunately, perhaps because people went in with the wrong expectations, or perhaps because those who don’t support climate activism or veganism form a large part of the audience that posted the bad reviews. These might be the same people that criticise Greta for ‘not coming up with solutions, and only pointing out what is wrong’. They seem to forget Greta is not a politician or policy maker and it is not her job to solve the climate crisis, simply to signal it and raise awareness.
One thing must be said in favour of the critics though: there is something about the documentary that seems rather odd. Film-maker Nathan Grossman has followed Greta from the very beginning, way before she became famous. Nowhere is it mentioned how this is possible or why this happened. It does feed into the narrative that there is a bit of a hidden agenda. Having said that, it is very clear from this documentary that the path of activism is Greta’s own life-calling and not something her parents have manipulated her into. Matter of fact, Greta had to lobby fiercely to get her parents to stop eating meat, stop being high-consumers and travel lots by plane. She is very much her own person, making a wonderful contribution to the world. The documentary could have been a lot better in many ways but does honour Greta and said contribution.