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The Independent Critic

Roger Hallam, Farhana Yamin, Sam Knights, Savannah Lovelock, Sophie Cowen, Alejandra Piazzolla Ramirez, Gail Bradbrook.
Maia Kenworthy and Elena Sánchez Bellot
82 Mins.
Hope Runs High

 Movie Review: Rebellion 
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The first feature-length documentary to tell the behind-the-scenes story of Extinction Rebellion, or XR, Maia Kenworthy and Elena Sánchez Bellot's Rebellion follows the 2018 birth of XR specifically formed with a vision of action on climate change through mass civil disobedience. The film focuses much of its attention on the group's founder Roger Hallam, a farmer from Wales who is joined at the forefront by the likes of his daughter Savannah Lovelock and Sam Knights. 

Rebellion finds much of its power from the presence of Farhana Yamin, a Pakistani born human rights lawyer whose transformation is powerful as she begins to realize that the justice she'd always trusted wasn't, in fact, to be depended upon. Yamin played a key role in negotiating the Paris Climate Agreement yet became willing to break the law upon seeing the government's response to the emergency. 

“I’d come into the UN system thinking it’s a fair fight - we’ve got science and law and economic analysis. But you had intensive lobbying from the fossil fuel industries, and the financial industries that support them, and it wasn’t a fair fight," Yamin said. 

XR's reputation grew quickly. In April 2019, the organization brought London to a standstill as thousands took part in the biggest act of civil disobedience in England since the Suffragettes. Within days of the protests, a climate emergency is declared by the UK Parliament and climate change is propelled to the heart of public debate. Many countries around the world, from Canada to Bangladesh, follow suit declaring emergencies.

Rebellion also captures the internal tensions that arose as XR became a global phenomenon. XR youth came to the center and began calling out the power imbalances of the group. For them, climate change is not just an environmental issue but is rooted in - and reinforces - social inequalities. 

Beautifully photographed and narratively balanced, Rebellion captures the story of a vulnerable democracy that moved, at times with force, to restrict the power of peaceful protest - including a government bill threatening 10 year jail sentences for those causing ‘serious annoyance or inconvenience.’ 

Rebellion has screened at multiple film fests and was a 2023 BAFTA nominee for Best Debut Director. Picked up for distribution by Hope Runs High, Rebellion is a thoughtful, emotionally engaging feature doc not to be missed. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic