Bigger Than Us, or when the young rise up

Picture of the movie Bigger than us © 2021 - ELZE´VIR FILMS - BIG MOTHER PRODUCTIONS - ALL YOU NEED IS PROD - FRANCE 2 CINEMA


For seven months, the French writer Flore Vasseur and Indonesian activist Melati Wijsen criss-crossed the world to meet young activists fighting for the climate and social justice. They had just one question: what  is driving you?

What's the story behind Bigger Than Us?

I have always been interested in those who try to find solutions. I have met whistleblowers and tried to promote them to make people want to act. But there is still a form of inherent resistance in our societies when faced with the idea of change. I wanted to show what makes people give up everything one day to follow an idea bigger than them. And that this spirit of resistance lies in the most magical part of ourselves: childhood.

How did your work with Melati Wisjen come about?

As early as 2016, I realised that a host of young people like her was rising up without anyone noticing. I fell head over heels when I met her. In this young girl's body I could hear all the wisdom of an Edward Snowden, but I could see her running out of steam. The danger was that her energy would be stifled by the inertia of adults. I suggested that she meet other young activists to give herself the courage to continue.

What's your take on this generation?

I see in them a frankness and lucidity that few adults have. These children were born into the disaster we created. They have seen their parents lose their jobs, the seas polluted, the distress and the looting. All this exploded with their childhood. They were born on the other side of the coin. This is the climate generation, but it is committed to much more than that. They know that everything is interconnected.

You don't express your own opinions on screen…

I didn't want to be the all-powerful adult who comes and barges in with her camera, I wanted to give these young people the opportunity to connect. My aim was to create a framework within which the conversation could take place.

What was your starting point?

It was the idea that the environmental issue is a symptom of a larger problem: a civilisation built on social inequalities. Young people understand very well where they stand.

How did you select these young activists?

It was a lot of work. I didn't want to create the effect of a magic spell, nor did I want to take steps that were dictated by their parents. I needed things to show because we were making a documentary. Many of these activists have been fighting for a very long time and ask for nothing. I wanted to show that this fight comes from their guts.

A word about the shooting?

We filmed for seven months and ended up with 300 hours of rushes. During the shooting, my obsession was to find a way to provoke these encounters and to capture them. There were also real moments of grace. It's a film about the ability to connect on a human level.

Are you working on a new project?

I'm not finished with this film about youth rising up. I’d love to do a sequel. There’s nothing more important than telling the generations that are coming up that this fight belongs to them and that it is a great way to live. I'm not sure where this thread is going to take me. But I love the idea that it is bigger than me.