TIFF 2020: Underplayed, Lift Like a Girl, I Am Greta | Festivals & Awards

TIFF 2020: Underplayed, Lift Like a Girl, I Am Greta | Festivals & Awards

Despite their many frustrations, “Underplayed” ends on a hopeful high note. Things are changing, however slowly, women are getting more opportunities than in years past. Now the challenge is—as it is across several male-dominated industries—how does that change become sustainable. 

Lift Like a Girl” is a motivating documentary of a different kind and not one that’s always easy to watch. Mayye Zayed’s film follows the complicated relationship between an Olympic coach, Captain Ramadan, and his new protege, Zebiba, over the course of four years in Alexandria, Egypt. After training his daughter to become a world champion at the Olympics, Captain Ramadan built a training school for other scrappy, hard-working girls to follow in her footsteps. With little-to-no-funding, he runs his weightlifting school for street kids with personality, one that’s prone to singing when they win and harsh scoldings when he thinks they’ve given up on themselves. His relentless style can be seen as almost bullying, but there’s a fierce loyalty between the couch and his athletes. However, it’s watching Zebiba grow up on her own that feels the most rewarding. 

Although “I Am Greta” is a pretty straightforward documentary about climate activist Greta Thunberg, the documentary captures many of the day-to-day moments you won’t see trending on social media or in broadcast news sound bites. Director Nathan Grossman began filming in 2018 when she was leading small-but-news-making groups of students with her Friday climate strikes. As he follows her meteoric rise to the world stage, he also captures Thunberg’s off-stage side, a young girl who loves her pets and occasionally bursts out in dance. But her focus on climate change remains resolute, and the documentary shows how much her efforts have not only affected and inspired people outside of her home in Stockholm, Sweden, but also how it’s changed her family’s life, from going vegetarian to cutting out air travel. It also briefly looks at her detractors and their attacks on her Asperger’s Syndrome, something the budding activist is not afraid to address. Like Rachel Lears’ “Knock Down the House,” which followed rising progressive politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Grossman’s “I Am Greta” captures the precious last few moments before someone becomes famous and then watches their passionate message find a wider audience.


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