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The intimate human portrayal of the 45th Toronto International Film Festival’s documentary film, ‘I Am Greta' by the Swedish director and filmmaker Nathan Grossman, was done by Grossman's following Greta ever since she was 15-year-old and was sitting alone outside of Sweden’s parliament with a protest sign: “School Strike for Climate” all the way through to her two-week sea voyage across the Atlantic to attend the United Nations Climate Summit in Sept. 2019.
I Am Greta. Image credit: TIFF
Greta’s blunt speeches on the climate crisis resulted in her rise from obscurity to international attention.
“Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago,” she tells delegates at a UN conference in Poland, Newsweek reports said. Her message inspires other young activists to take action around the world as part of the movement dubbed #FridaysForFuture.
I Am Greta. Image credit: Unsplash
Although famous for her viral videos, this film offers a unique view of Greta’s personal journey.
Her autism spectrum gave her the advantage of intense focus, but this very trait caused her to be shunned by classmates and staff in school.
She said that she suffered from depression for several years and suffered severe weight loss after watching a film about climate change at school. At that time she only spoke to her parents, her sister and their dogs. Her activism gave her a purpose and allowed her to overcome those fears.
By revealing the effect of these trying moments on Thunberg, Grossman is successful in crafting Thunberg as stronger and more heroic than before, in a film that covers only the first stage of the ongoing story.
Being introduced to the Thunberg family before Greta’s rising fame, Grossman benefits from his early access achieved through appointments, diary of speeches, meetings and conference invitations. The film effectively adopts the structure of a exhaustive travel itinerary, criss-crossing from a UN climate conference in Poland to the EU Parliament in Brussels to an awareness-raising visit to Germany and so on.
With rising popularity, she was targeted with abusive and death threats from climate crisis deniers.
Being in a high-profile situation, Greta is not immune to stress. During the Atlantic crossing, in a tumultuous sailboat with her father to attend two UN climate summits in September 2019. Greta tearfully records an audio diary on her phone, which is wrapped in plastic to protect it from the water. She misses her mother, her sister and the dogs, she says. She misses home. "I miss having a regular life, with routines."
Apart from a few unguarded moments that reveal the personal emotional toll of Thunberg's fame, overall it is a smoothly constructed view of her soaring popularity.
Greta’s father is shown by her side throughout her travels, but Grossman provides no details as to his personal history, or what enables him to devote his life full-time to his daughter’s campaign; her mother is just glimpsed, and the rest of her family not shown at all. Even Thunberg’s middle-school graduation ceremony is shown briefly.
Grossman has tried his best to respect and protect the mental health of its young and vulnerable heroine.
Thunberg's occasional voiceovers accompany images of her speeches and travels.
Nathan Grossman attended the Stockholm Academy of Dramatic Arts. His credits include the short film The Toaster Challenge (15) and the documentary series Köttets lustar (17). I Am Greta (20) is his first documentary feature.
Produced by Cecilia Nessen, and Fredrik Heinig in Venice Film Festival, with Production Company B-Reel Films, and distributed by Hulu, the film was edited by Hanna Lejonqvist, and Charlotte Landelius, and music provided by Jon Ekstrand, and Rebekka Karijord.
Reporting by Asha Bajaj