Seeing through the static

Students from the Centre for Research in Autism and Education watch 'I Am Greta'.

This moving documentary offers a curious and powerful insight into the life of world-known teenage climate activist, Greta Thunberg. Interspersed amongst her many powerful speeches, the audience are also privy to several intimate and funny moments between Greta and her family. The audience views personal scenes that have not been represented in the media, which give a unique representation of Greta’s  fight against climate change.

The documentary includes current footage by Dogwoof and old family videotapes, and is almost entirely narrated by Greta’s own voiceover.  This made the documentary a deeply humanising account of Greta as a complex, individual, 16-year-old girl who decided to take responsibility for addressing the climate crisis when governments around the world were failing to do so. Altogether, these elements contributed to an empowering report of Greta’s story. 

While Greta talks about being on the autistic spectrum (she has a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome) it is hardly the documentary’s  focus. Instead, I am Greta  did an excellent job of portraying autism as a part of who Greta was, affecting the way she encountered the world, but not defining or determining her whole being.  The audience sees Greta navigate large events and mass crowds with some discomfort, but also how her focus  and in-depth understanding of the climate crisis allows her to “see through the static” surrounding the climate emergency.  She says “I feel it would be good if anyone had a tiny bit of Asperger’s. At least when it comes to climate.”  

In her speech at the United Nations Climate summit in New York, Greta says “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood”. This film demonstrates her commitment and sacrifice with a powerful depiction of Greta’s fight for environmental justice.  I am Greta also offered some insight into how Greta perceives the disinterest, apathy and often abusive, derogatory reactions shown by some of the most powerful people in the world in response to her activism. The Swedish teenager does not seem to be burdened by the negativity and instead seeks comfort at home, surrounded by her family, dogs and horses.   However, we do learn about Greta’s frustration of trying to communicate the climate crisis to world leaders because of their “role-playing” and lack of action in response to her heartfelt speeches. In this sense,  I am Greta  was another poignant piece of activism in the battle against climate change. 

I am Greta will be released in UK cinemas on 16th October and available on Hulu’s streaming service from 13th November. Watch the trailer for #IAmGreta here: https://bit.ly/2GsFGGI

Reviewed by Maria Ashworth (PhD student), Jana Brinkert (PhD student), Mel Romualdez (PhD student), Amber Pryke-Hobbes (placement student) and Danae Malyan (placement student), at the Centre for Research in Autism and Education (CRAE), UCL Institute of Education.

Find more on climate change in our archive.

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