New Delhi: Greta Thunberg has been called a “little brat” by Jai Bolsanaro, “poorly informed” by Vladimir Putin and a person with “anger management problem” by Donald Trump.
But a new documentary on the Swedish climate activist shows her as a hardworking and selfless teenager dedicated to preserving the planet for the future generations.
Premiered at the 45th Toronto International Film Festival, ‘I Am Greta’ directed by Swedish filmmaker Nathan Grossman documents Thunberg’s journey from a school girl striking alone in front of the Swedish parliament a year ago to the climate warrior galvanising a global movement today.
The 16-year-old comes off as a tough-talking fighter with an eye for detail who takes people not by their word, but for their actions. “Today Greta is famous for her viral videos, but this film offers a unique view of her personal journey,” says Toronto festival’s programmer Thom Powers.
The film begins with Thunberg sitting in front of the Swedish parliament holding a placard that reads, ‘School Strike for the Climate’. Initially passersby ignore the lone protester, but slowly people join her. “The month is August, 2018, when most of the world had never heard of Greta Thunberg. But that’s when Grossman began following her story, capturing the emergence of a generational leader,” adds Powers.
Thunberg, who reads books on climate change and relies on scientific data, was depressed about the state of the planet. “I stopped eating. I was sick. I almost starved to death,” she says in the film.
Following her strike for climate action, the girl with pigtails receives a call to participate in a climate conference in Poland while in a car with her father Svante. “We want someone to deliver the message about climate action to the younger generation,” says one of the organisers of the UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland.
“Our leaders have failed us,” Thunberg, who writes her own speeches, thunders at the conference. “We, the people, have to take the responsibility our leaders should have taken long ago,” she adds.
Everybody thought that would be the last time anybody had heard about Thunberg. “Come Monay, nobody will know who you are,” says her father. Instead, the international media headlines her for “scolding world leaders”. She is flooded by messages of support from children across the world. Street protesters for climate action soon raise placards that say, ‘Make the World GRETA Again’.
Thunberg, who shuns air travel, soon gets invited to global forums like the European Union parliament, and European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels, Belgium. French president Emmanuel Macron meets her at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Macron, the first head of state to meet Thunberg, discusses climate action with her and enquires how she is coping with school. “My school supports me and I work hard too,” Thunberg responds.
The film shows how Thunberg doesn’t hide her displeasure at world leaders not doing enough for the environment. “Politicians say we are trying, but that is not enough,” she says. “What matters is emissions have to be reduced. It has to happen now.”
Thunberg also meets the Pope at the Vatican, where the pontiff tells the teenager, “Continue to work. Go on. Go on,” in the backdrop of people chanting, “Greta, Save the Planet.”
Critics have blamed Thunberg’s parents for exploiting her while she gets death threats. “My family is worried,” Thunberg says about her safety. “But we have to continue saying the same thing (about climate action) again and again until people get it,” she says. “You can ignore me, but you can’t ignore the science.”
Thunberg argues that the younger generation has a lot at stake. “We children are doing this because we want our hopes and dreams back,” she says. The film shows her sea journey from England to New York to attend the UN climate summit in August last year. After arriving by the boat, she boards the metro to the summit.
“You have stolen my childhood with your empty words,” Thunberg tells the world leaders at the UN summit. You are failing us. Young people have begun to understand your betrayal. Change is coming whether you like it or not.”
A month later, more than seven million people went on strike for the climate in the largest strikes for climate ever.