IF NOT US, THEN WHO?
IF NOT NOW, THEN WHEN?
Aged 18 to 25 years-old, they have changed laws, built schools, mobilized women, men and children by the thousands. On every corner of the planet, the youth dare to dream, experiment and live big. When everyone, every institution around them have failed.
Growing inequality, food, climate and migration crises, corruption… We know the data, the facts, the evidence. Most solutions already exist. Everything is on the table, except our will to change. We feel and thus are restrained, powerless.
We may lack a positive representation of change, role models, aspirations which would be… BIGGER THAN US. With their clear and uncompromising words and actions, these young change-makers blow our minds. And lead us along a way where no factual arguments or scientific warnings could convince us or inspire us to go.
This might be the most important story ever. One of a deep change, universal and accessible to all, if we pay attention.
BIGGER THAN US is not a film about solutions, but about resistance and dignity.
What it takes and what it means to dare to confront to our impotence and fears.
And to overcome them. It is a film about joy and the love of life.
ABOUT THE FILM
For the last 6 years, MELATI WIJSEN, a 18 year-old Indonesian, has been lobbying her local government to ban the sale and distribution of plastic bags in her island, Bali. At the age of 12, with her sister Isabel, she has petitioned, organized flash mobs, gone into hunger strike. She has raised the awareness of thousands of kids, tourists and locals, favored a new industry of alternative bags, and had her governor to commit to a ban.
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I have been writing for fifteen years (books, stories, documentaries), on our sad and silent march to extinction. Yet no matter the demonstration, this work was met with resignation. My initial target – my peers, adults – cannot and will not change. They are, in a way, too big to fail.
My six year-old son put me on another path with a single question: “What can I do for the earth not to die. And by the way, what do YOU do”? I had analyzed, covered it all, finance, technology, corruption – the matrix maybe. I had spent the last fifteen years telling adults what to think or understand. But I was unable to answer my own child’s question.
My son opened a brand new chapter for me. It started in Indonesia in April 2016 as I filmed the journeys and initiatives of Melati and her sister Isabel, 13 and 15 at the time. Amazed, I started investigating and found a bunch of young activists like them. Driven by a mix of extreme lucidity and pure joy, outrage and common sense. They experiment and dream. They challenge, do not expect anything from us. They show up and do. Our system seems to have been built to disactivate us all, especially the Youth. Melati and her peers are those alive and free.
Hence this project, dedicated to a generation in the making (18 to 25 years old), these teenagers with a cause. They do not want to be lectured. They are looking for a constructive relationship to their world. They need positive role-models and ways to navigate and act in our challenging and disturbing environments.
This film and project is also for parents and grand-parents, society at large, those eager to give a sense of possibility and wonder even to those around them. It also aims to address the way we look at the Youth, at our times and at power.
In the end, this is for all of us who believe, or witness, that true power no longer lies in big institutions but in humans, and in their most precious trait: the child within.
I created Elzévir Films in 1993 with my partner Marie Masmonteil. Since then, we have produced more than 50 films for cinema and television, such as Live and become (Radu Mihaileanu, 2005), Home (Yann Arthus-Bertrand, 2009), The Source (Radu Mihaileanu, 2011) Leadersheep (Christian Rouaud, 2011), Party girl (Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger and Samuel Theis, 2014), etc. many of them dealing with environmental and social issues. When discovering what Melati and her peers where capable to do in their own communities, it was clear for me that I should participate in this movement in the making, and do my best to give this documentary the wider impact possible.
For more than 20 years I have been involved in environmental and social causes, trying to raise awareness for a more equitable world. Becoming a mum, I felt right away that my kids had so much to teach me. The new generation, they are choosing life and dignity. And they are showing us the way. This is why I have decided to produce this film, and help Flore to shine a light on Melati and all these young activists who want to make a difference.
Flore Vasseur writes books (narrative fiction), portraits and stories, documentaries and TV series scripts. Whatever the format, she works on the end of the world as we know it, the one to come and those (women, men, kids) who might make this transition happen. She has covered the ideas and initiatives of many change-makers. On that thread, she has written on Larry Lessig, Birgitta Jonsdottir and Edward Snowden for a couple of years now. For her film, “MEETING SNOWDEN”, she gathered them in a single piece of work (and a same unit of time and space). In a secret hotel room in Moscow they had one of the most important discussion ever: how to save democracy? Her new book, « What remains of our dreams », on the life and death of internet child prodigy and activist Aaron Swartz was published in January 2019. She has been a columnist for Le Monde, France Culture and La Croix.
BIGGER THAN US is a film produced by Elzévir Films, Big Mother Productions, All You Need Is Prod and France 2 Cinéma.