© Plaion Pictures/Studiocanal

Bigger Than Us
France 2021

Opening 16 Feb 2023

Directed by: Melati Wijsen
Writing credits: Flore Vasseur, Melati Wijsen

Melati Wijsen’s activism began when she and sister Isabel, twelve and ten, were petitioning against plastic bags excessiveness on their home turf of Bali, Indonesia. Since then, the lackluster concern by politicians, consortiums, conglomerate businesses, and people toward saving the environment propelled Melati into big-time action. Now eighteen, she traveled the world talking to other young activists about their work, and where their strength comes from. French director-co-writer (with Wijsen) Flore Vasseur and team do an impressive job capturing these interchanges.

At twelve, Mohamad Al Jounde’s family fled Syria, landing in one of Lebanon’s refugee camps. He missed school, “When a child feels they are nothing, they lose hope.” Mohamed decided to change that; against some formidable odds he established hope within the walls of a now thriving school; “school is security.” In Malawi, Africa, twenty-two-year-old Memory Banda’s priority is saving young girls from forced marriages and rape. Memory is outspoken against “initiation camps” for adolescents. Rene Silva wanted to help Brazilians living in favelas, i.e., dangerous and drug ridden slums. Rene’s solution? At just twelve he gave them a Voice through print. In Colorado environmental racism runs deep where Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, nineteen, is concentrating his efforts against fracking on Native American land, and in Greece Mary Finn, twenty-two, takes risks to save boat people, “People don’t flee their homes, unless their home is the mouth of a shark.” Winnie Tushabe, twenty-five, focuses on survival through food security for Ugandans and its refugees. She trusts that women, particularly women farmers, will save Africa.

Meeting these seven awesome, unassuming individuals generates hope. Fiercely committed trailblazers they inspire, provoke, and produce results; all have either started or are involved in not-for-profit organizations. Citizens of the world must face hard choices: continue with the discombobulation currently playing out, or to follow young warriors of the “climate generation.” Cormac McCarthy’s novel, The Road is a stark harbinger of what could come.

As Xiuhtezcatl wisely states, “The good thing about this whole mess we’re in is that we created it. Therefore, we can reverse it, we can change it. We can shift humanity like this is our tipping point. What we face is the possibility and the opportunity to evolve from here.” (Marinell Haegelin)

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