TIFF 2020 Review: 'I Am Greta' Reintroduces an Activist Icon on Her Own Terms

Joseph Braverman reviews the inspiring documentary I Am Greta, which screened at 2020's Toronto International Film Festival, and is headed to Hulu.
User Rating: 7

Environmental activist Greta Thunberg does not want to be viewed as a one-woman crusader. In fact, she hopes enough of the world’s youth shares her dire concern for the fate of the planet. Enraged by empty promises from global leaders to reduce carbon emissions, Greta realizes persistent protest is the only way to galvanize response. Furthermore, she is highly aware of the media scrutiny placed upon her. Greta weighs every word before addressing an audience — she knows her actions have to match her cause. Thus, her diet is strictly vegan, and she refuses to travel by plane, the biggest pollutant in transportation.

Nathan Grossman’s documentary, I Am Gretademystifies conspiracies about the Swedish school girl’s activism by giving an authentic voice to the subject. Greta is not being exploited by her parents; she isn’t in the deep pockets of special interest groups or politicians. Greta is simply a girl with Asperger’s syndrome who uses her condition to remain laser-focused on the biggest threat we face: global warming. Her speeches are her own, and if she sounds like she’s droning on the same points, it’s because people in positions to enact instrumental change choose to ignore her warnings.

Partnering with Hulu ensures millions of eyeballs will watch Greta’s surreal journey from lone sign-holder in front of parliament to speaker at the United Nations. Grossman could have done a better job linking social media’s influence on Greta’s quick rise to fame. Viewers are led to believe she got a few notices from passersby and the press, and was then retweeted by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then, viola, a global sensation was born. Sometimes the doc operates counter-productively by drawing so much attention to Greta’s celebrity status when she would much rather stay on message.

However, her popularity aggravates conservative politicians who don’t run on climate change platforms. Some even go on propaganda machines like Fox News to spew ignorant assertions about Greta’s autism in an attempt to discredit her. Blood is guaranteed to boil watching these cruel segments. That is why it is so vital for Greta to always take the mic and continue unnerving these bullies by standing in her truth. The more society witnesses Greta’s actions aligning with her words, the less credible her opponents become. Despite her reluctance to be in the spotlight, the importance of her mission to get the word out supersedes any anxiety she carries.

Greta is an inspiration to kids just like her, who worry their selective mutism means they have nothing of value to say or contribute. Her tenacity is proof that those on the spectrum tend to exert more energy towards issues and events they care about. Hopefully, I Am Greta urges everyone to step in and stop any kind of disability mockery on sight. Everything that Greta says is backed by science, experience, and historical fact. If you cannot take her seriously, then you cannot claim to be a proponent of our planet’s wellbeing.

What I Am Greta lacks in informational persuasion —  like An Inconvenient Truth and Before the Flood — it makes up for with a compelling subject of interest who voyages instead of strolls. Greta is unlike any activist the world has ever seen, but that is not to say there aren’t millions out there who can mirror her fervency. She is here to remain a human megaphone for progress and accountability. If we fail her, we doom the world.

Written by
Joseph Braverman is a 31-year-old film school alum from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Digital Media. He considers himself one of the biggest Star Wars fans in the galaxy, living by a golden rule that there is no such thing as a “bad” Star Wars movie. Joseph lives in Los Angeles, CA, and enmeshes himself in all things entertainment, though he’ll occasionally take a break from screen consumption to hike in Malibu or embark on new foodie explorations. Vehemently opposed to genre bias, he feels strongly that any good film is worthy of Oscar consideration. Joseph is also a proud member of the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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