Written by Tresca Mallon
Rebellion depicts the interpersonal strife within Extinction Rebellion from its inception right up until the present day. With unfettered access to organising meetings for large actions and interviews with the founding members, Rebellion is an intimate portrayal of a movement in crisis.
The main focus of the film is the 2019 actions which thrust Extinction Rebellion onto the World Map as they shut down the centre of London in an eleven day protest to call urgent attention to the Climate Crisis. While this action was largely successful, persuading the UK to become the first government in the world to declare a climate emergency, the group has garnered a plethora of criticism and has been at the centre of debate for its methods and the organisation’s handling of climate issues. Rebellion looks at the movement’s trajectory using observational footage from meetings, interviews with founding members Gail Bradbrook and Roger Hallam as well as others intimately involved in the early inception of Extinction Rebellion. It takes the narrative right up to 2021 in which the Policing Bill threatened the future of organisers and our collective right to protest.
While all the interviewees give fascinating insights, the film is quite the character study of Roger Hallam. He is a singular man on a desperate mission, attempting to lead a collective movement. His single-mindedness, especially in his seeming obsession with getting arrested, causes strife within the group which ultimately leads to a split. It also leads to a break-down of his personal relationships. The interviews with his daughter and especially the footage of her final attempt to reach him as he plans to fly a drone over Heathrow, are incredibly affecting. While not the most flattering depiction, it is impossible not to feel empathy for a man who feels so strongly for a cause he is willing to blow-up his entire life to achieve it.
Another interesting character is that of international lawyer and climate activist Farhana Yamin. She provides a wonderful contrast to Hallam’s gung-ho nature as she considers each move and is unafraid to voice her concerns with some of the group's methods. Her family’s public support of her work is some of the film’s most heart-warming moments and gives her story an emotional core.
Maia Kenworthy and Elena Sánchez Bellot’s documentary is unique in its access. They capture a historic moment of activism with such a high level of intimacy and provide an unparalleled insight into the planning, interpersonal conflicts and reactions of those involved at the very core. Rebellion does feel like a work in progress. However, so is the fight for Climate Justice. There was never going to be a neat resolution to this story. It would be interesting to see a follow-up which delves more into the youth groups and tracks the development of a new Extinction Rebellion.