“It started with a tip…that told us she was going to do some kind of a small [protest] outside the Swedish government,” Grossman says during Deadline’s Contenders Documentary awards-season event, recalling that Thunberg sat alone against a stone wall holding a sign reading “School Strike for the Climate.” “That was the first time I saw her.”
Grossman went on to spend more than a year with Thunberg and her family for his Hulu documentary. He tells Deadline that he didn’t anticipate the teen’s protest would ignite a movement.
“She’s interesting and she has a special way of speaking about this [issue] but it’s not something that big,” Grossman remembers thinking. “When I understood that this is definitely an international kind of grand story was when [school] strikes were popping up in Australia and Belgium.”
Thunberg’s campaign has earned her renown, but also ridicule from President Donald Trump and other prominent climate-change doubters. Grossman says he wanted to counter attempts by her opponents to reduce Thunberg to a caricature, a “screaming child” to be ignored.
He says his subject responded positively to his cinematic portrait.
“She perceived that the portrayal showed her as…this three-dimensional being, from being very used to seeing herself so compressed into kind of this activist who is just angry,” Grossman says. “I think that was fulfilling for her to recognize herself on screen.”
Check out the panel video above.
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