Rebellion: the real green men and women

Excellent documentary offers an insight into the motivations of XR’s founding members

Thursday, 17th March — By Dan Carrier

Rebellion film from Bertha Dochouse

Rebellion charts the rise of Extinction Rebellion

Directed by Maia Kenworthy & Elena Sánchez Bellot
Certificate: 12a

AH humans! What a deeply stupid species we are. It is hard not to come away from this documentary that charts the rise of the Extinction Rebellion campaign feeling a sense of uselessness. It offers a personal insight into the motivations of the founding members, attempts to deconstruct their aims, and then considers what they have achieved.

This is not a polemic of the mass extinction we face. Instead, it is a much more personal piece, focusing on a core group who came together to use non-violent direct action to try and create a new landscape where our governments face up to reality.

XR are right. But in this excellent film, you can’t help but think this was a far-from-perfect movement, and some of the key players do not come over well.

Talking heads from campaigners Roger Hallam, Farhana Yamin and Alejandra Piazzolla Ramirez explain how they came up with demands: tell the truth about what is happening; achieve net zero by 2025, and set up a People’s Assembly to discuss how to do it. Aims one and two sound terrific and laudable, but aim three is a load of poorly defined codswallop that is far too easy for those in power to dismiss.

Hallam, who many in the movement painted as some kind of bogeyman, instead seems much more understandable and grounded than others: a man who is single-minded, because the clarity of his thought and his under­standing of the situation is apparent, as is his own moral im­perative to do something about it.

Campaigner Sam Knight is also eloquent and not in love with himself, which the navel gazing of some of the cast suggests that they are more interested in burnishing their personal glows than rising sea levels.

He speaks of the broken concept of infinite growth on a plenty of finite resources, while the brilliant Alejandra Piazzolla Ramirez talks of how gross inequality perpetuates the emergency, and that a transition to a green economy must not mean the continuing exploitation of people and resources in the countries that hold such natural resources. She said: “We demand climate and justice. Ask where the lithium for new batteries comes from? Where does the cobalt for solar panels come from?”

We are reminded how their direct action panned out, the range of people who attended their protests and hammers home how direct action can work – but we still have a frighteningly long and tough journey ahead of us.

Bertha Dioc House at the Curzon Bloomsbury are hosting a Q&A about the film with the director and contributors on March 21. See

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