With fewer films, North America’s most significant film event reimagines both a physical and virtual platform. Thrilling new movies from around the world make the cut. One of the most hyped is the Swedish documentary “I am Greta.” And rightfully so. 

Filmmaker Nathan Grossman could not have predicted what was coming back in August of 2018. A friend tipped him off that a petite and shy 15-year-old girl with Pippi Longstocking braids and purple backpack was skipping school and protesting climate change outside the parliament building in Stockholm. Out of curiosity, he started filming her. One year later Greta Thunberg was a world famous superstar who had sparked a global climate movement.
In his intimate and moving documentary “I am Greta,” Grossman chronicles Time’s Person of the Year 2019 from when Greta begins getting massive attention on social media to when she crosses the Atlantic Ocean on a zero-carbon yacht to New York City where she gives a powerful speech at the UN. After spending time with her parents back in Sweden, we follow her (with the father) traversing Europe giving a number of unapologetic, self-penned speeches. We then watch as she gets to meet major celebrities like Arnold Schwarzenegger, French President Emanuel Macron, and finally the Pope; she receives harsh criticism along the way from American President Donald Trump, President Bolsonaro of Brazil and President Putin of Russia.
With a personal approach and sweeping images, this behind-the-scenes film not only touches on Greta’s Asperger syndrome and incredible fearlessness but also on how she sees through hypocrisy and empty promises from world leaders. She makes clear she doesn’t want the attention herself but on concrete actions instead. 


Many other films deserve the attention they are getting at the festival. Four extraordinary ones take place in the USA and have shots at the Oscars. Chloé Zhao’s stunning “Nomadland,” with an equally stunning performance by Frances McDormand, is a rare and absorbing gem. Actress Regina King's directorial debut “One Night in Miami” lets us meet four black icons, Muhammed Ali, Malcolm X, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke, for an intellectual night to remember in 1964. Vanessa Kirby, from the television series “The Crown,” gives a tour de force performance in “Pieces of a Woman,” and the documentary MLK/FBI scrutinizes former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover's surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr.
From Mexico, Michel Franco's dystopian “New Order” crawls under the skin with distressing images and “Quo vadis, Aida” creates emotional tension during war in the former country of Yugoslavia. From France, François Ozon riffs on love and death in “Summer of 85” while “The Big Hit” energetically lets an unlikely group of inmates interpret a Samuel Becket play. Then there is the mystery of hypnotic Raga music in “The Disciple” from India, and charming old Italian men in a forest in the magical film “The Truffle Hunters.” 
Whatever one chooses, the Toronto Film Festival makes it clear that despite difficult times, strong, beautiful movies are still being made. 
Niclas Goldberg

By Niclas Goldberg

“I am Greta” releases in the U.S. on Hulu on November 13.

For more info, see www.tiff.net (Toronto International Film Festival)