Bigger Than Us

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Reviewed by: Sunil Chauhan

Bigger Than Us
"Bigger Than Us uses individuals to show how young people across the globe are stepping in - often against powerful opposition - where authorities aren’t."

Greta Thunberg isn’t the only teenager taunting governments to do more about the environmental crisis than respond with “beautiful words”. Bigger Than Us shows the Swedish activist is one of many, each drawing inspiration from one another, even when fighting very different corners. Connecting the dots in Bigger Than Us is Melati Wijsen, an 18-year-old whose campaign to stop single-use plastic in Indonesia was mounted almost a decade ago – like everyone featured here, her activism began early.

In Lebanon, she meets Mohamad, a Syrian refugee who constructed a school. In Malawi, she hears from Memory, who raised the marriable age for girls from 15 to 18. Through Rene, in Rio De Janeiro, she learns how he established a newspaper created by and for residents of the favelas. There’s also Xiutezcatl, a fracktivist in Colorado fighting shale gas development, Mary, a British photographer-turned-refugee activist in Greece, and Winnie, whose mission is to restore chemical-free farming practices in Uganda.

All seven figures are intrepid, enterprising and steadfast in their fight for a different future. What that world might look like though is anyone’s guess. Melati cautions that 95 per cent of Jakarta will be under water by 2050 if climate change continues unabated. She wonders if “nature’s giving up on us”. Mary meanwhile sees her role as one that state neglect has created, declaring that “none of us should be here”. But to their credit, and society’s benefit, they are.

Bigger Than Us uses individuals to show how young people across the globe are stepping in - often against powerful opposition - where authorities aren’t. But their story isn’t just about resistance, or daring to expect more, it’s about a simple human need to belong, to want to feel part of a group, as well as a bigger cause, and how the two can overlap. Flore Vasseur isn’t that keen on exploring the ins and outs of contemporary activism nor the personalities involved. Her film has a simple aim - to make it look easy. Mostly it succeeds: by the time Melati asks, “Are you the one who looks away or gets involved?”, you’d have to be particularly pitiless to be in the first camp.

Reviewed on: 13 Jul 2021
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Documentary about young environmental activists around the globe.

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