Swedish filmmaker Nathan Grossman has been documenting teen activist Greta Thunberg since before she became a worldwide cause célèbre. From her early protests encouraging a “School Strike for the Climate” to her famous journey across the Atlantic Ocean en route to the UN Climate Action Summit in New York City, Grossman was there assembling the footage that became “I Am Greta,” a new documentary now playing in theatres.
Charting the course of the polarizing eco warrior’s life and career in two flashpoint years, 2018 and 2019, Grossman paints a glossy but ultimately superficial portrait. His unprecedented access to his subject allows for a lively look at Thunberg’s concerns about climate change, punctuated by her fiery addresses to world leaders.
The incendiary headline making speeches are all represented here—”You lied to us,” she admonishes London’s Parliament. “You gave us false hope.”—and her, “We haven’t taken to the streets for you to take selfies with us and tell us you admire what we do,” dismissal of bandwagon jumping celebs is as zingy a barb as we’re likely to hear from a public figure but as exciting as those public moments are Grossman never gets really up close and personal with his subject.
In part it’s understandable. Thunberg is a public figure who has been open about her activism and Asperger syndrome, which she describes as a superpower that allows her to cut through the information overload of her cause and focus on her mission, but she’s also a young woman thrust into the glare of a judgmental press and public. She isn’t obligated to reveal her personal life but the title “I Am Greta” promises insight that never appears.
Still, as a verité depiction of a time when the world was focused on Thunberg’s methods and important message, “I Am Greta” is sure to interest her supporters.