Rebellion review – thoughtful documentary telling the real story behind Extinction Rebellion | Movies

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This balanced, thoughtful documentary tells the story of Extinction Rebellion from the inside. It’s directed by first-timers Maia Kenworthy and Elena Sánchez Bellot, who capture the anything-is-possible euphoria of the first wave of protests in April 2019 – activists feeling on the right side of history, no longer powerless and alone with their anxieties about climate change.

One of the activists is Farhana Yamin, an environmental lawyer who superglued herself to Shell’s headquarters in London. A seriously impressive no-nonsense woman, she has spent more than three decades trying to make a difference from the inside, attending nearly every major climate summit since 1991. Frustrated by the blah blah blah and inaction (and the lobbying funded by the fossil fuel industry), she joins the protesters. Her husband beams with pride as the police arrive. Her son taps into his phone: “Mum is being arrested outside Shell” (presumably on the family’s WhatsApp group).

The film-makers chronicle the inner tensions at XR with fairness and sensitivity – this is a documentary that you feel you can trust. One of XR’s co-founders Roger Hallam, an organic farmer, becomes a splintering figure. His laser focus and stubbornness, so vital in starting a movement from scratch, begins to look self-righteous and blinkered. When XR members oppose flying drones close to Heathrow, he says it’s his job to be unpopular. It’s painful watching footage of angry rush-hour commuters confronting XR protesters glued to a train in east London. Social media reactions flash up on screen: “Middle class telling working class what to do.”

Hallam falls out with his daughter Savannah, who, like other young protesters, seems to feel frozen out of decision-making at XR. Activists of colour and others feel passionately about putting climate justice at the centre of the transition to renewable energy. Children as young as five are mining cobalt for solar panels and electric cars, says one woman. “I don’t want the same world but eco.”

This is a film that gets a lot done in less than 90 minutes – it could easily have run to double that length. There’s only a bit here on the police crackdown on XR, which does lead to a wonderfully English moment in which an officer stops a woman who looks to be in her 60s. He suspects that she might be harbouring items that could be used in criminal damage. She opens her handbag: “Gingerbread, a waterproof and a flask of tea?”

Rebellion is released on 18 March in cinemas.



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