Jim Rakete’s documentary Now is both a celebration of inspirational young climate activists and an informative rallying call for change.
Thanks to Now, you don’t have to watch I Am Greta, which Editor-in-Chief Alex Heeney’s review warns “falls into the same trap of lionizing [teenage climate activist] Greta [Thunberg] while ignoring the issues she cares about that the many other adults that Greta meets fall into.” Now also features Thunberg, along with many other young climate activists. While the film celebrates their inspiring commitment to the cause, director Jim Rakete always keeps his focus on the messages and information they’re trying to convey.
Now is a wide-ranging and ambitious exploration of its subject that comes in at a tight 73 minutes. I was surprised it’s so short, since it packs in so much information that I felt thoroughly schooled (in a good way) by the end of it. The young activists that Rakete profiles are amazing: there’s Luisa Neubeauer, who works on the Fridays for Future movement with Thunberg; Felix Finkbeiner, who founded the tree planting and environmental advocacy organisation Plant-for-the-Planet; and Zion Lights, who works with Extinction Rebellion. They’re all unbelievably smart and unwaveringly committed to activism.
I really appreciated, though, that while these young people are the focus of the film, Rakete brings in other environmental experts to contextualise their activism. Both the young people and the older experts clearly lay out the science behind climate change and the research behind how positive change to mitigate its effects can happen — if governments worldwide took the issue seriously. I really appreciated the insights of Dr. Jason Hickel, an economic anthropologist, who lays out how climate action might affect the economy, and how the government could counteract that by scaling down the economy. It really helped me understand, in a way I hadn’t before, what large-scale climate action would look like and why it’s very, very possible.
My one disappointment with the film is that we didn’t spend enough time with Vic Barrett, a 20-year-old Black environmental activist from New York. He makes a comment early in the film about how climate change disproportionately affects people of colour, but the film never gives him time to expand on that, nor does Rakete chase down experts to explore why that is. Barrett is a compelling presence when he’s on screen, but he often feels sidelined in favour of the other young activists, who are largely white.