In September 2019 at the United Nations Climate Action Summit, Greta Thunberg made headlines by condemning world leaders for abandoning today’s children to the ravages of climate change. “How dare you?” she asked, her voice shaking with anger. Truth-to-power moments like this alternate with quiet ones in “I Am Greta,” a documentary about Thunberg’s meteoric rise that suggests a new kind of hero.
Its director, Nathan Grossman, catches Thunberg early, in August 2018, when the teen (at age 15) begins a solo “school strike” in front of the Swedish parliament. Her blunt warnings about the environment catch on, and go global. “I Am Greta” joins her on the ensuing daisy chain of press gaggles, youth marches, United Nations speeches and meet-and-greets with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emmanuel Macron and the Pope.
It’s a bit of a blur, but Thunberg strikingly upends the stereotype of the young innocent as poster girl. She’s not there to give hope to adults. She’s there to give them hell, and she knows about the albedo effect, among other nuances of climate science. Like the survivors of the Parkland High School shooting, Thunberg resists being a walking symbol or letting people off the hook.
Grossman shot “I Am Greta” nearly single-handedly over two years, staying close to Thunberg’s point of view and folding in her experience with Asperger’s syndrome, which she partly credits for her singular focus. She may stop for a dance break or a breather; Dad tags along on her travels and nags her to eat. But Thunberg campaigns like our lives depend on it.
I Am Greta
Not rated. In English and Swedish, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes. Watch on Hulu.