Youth V Gov is both a stirring examination of the effects that climate change has had on our society, and an arresting accusation towards those responsible.
Who is to blame for planet Earth’s climate crisis, and how do we solve it? This is the question that stands at the heart of Youth V Gov, Christi Cooper’s latest documentary that tells the tale of a group of young activists planning to sue the US government for violating their rights to life and liberty by knowingly worsening Earth’s climate over the years. The documentary takes a detailed look not only at the science behind the crisis, but also the legal implications of the government’s misjudged actions, and how they are to be held accountable. It may be a very troubling and shocking watch at times, but it’s extremely effective in dissecting and identifying the root of this global problem – and raising awareness as to how we can all help undo the actions of those in power who have neglected to protect our planet.
Since 2015, a group of 21 young plaintiffs aged 13-24 have been responsible for carrying out a lawsuit against the United States government, claiming that its wilfully negligent actions in regards to planet Earth’s worsening climate have violated their constitutional right to life, liberty and personal safety. Led by 15 year old Kelsey Juliana, the lawsuit aimed to raise awareness of the government’s actions, seek justice for the effect that they’ve had on the younger generation, and call for action to help put an end to global warming before it’s too late. But Youth V Gov is much more than an informative documentary on the topic (which it admittedly does very well), delving into the personal lives of these 21 young activists and exploring the consequences that this experience is going to have on their futures, and the futures of all those that will come after them. It’s an extremely reflective piece of educational media that offers something much more personal than stats and numbers.
Where many documentaries would decide to focus on either the legality behind the lawsuit or the science behind climate change, Youth V Gov effortlessly blends them together by constructing a narrative that personally examines these young eco-warriors and clearly aims to educate its audience on both the crisis and the proposed solution. That being said, the documentary is certainly at its most interesting and engaging when it focuses on the unbelievable story of the lawsuit itself, offering plenty of thoughtful insight into the case and showing real footage from the many, many trials that these plaintiffs had to endure before they were granted a verdict. Whilst the information that the film provides on the science behind the climate crisis is interesting and definitely should be more widely understood, it does sometimes feel a little out of place and less captivating than the legal and political warfare that’s happening in the background.
The young activists are naturally the heart and soul of this story, and the way the documentary focuses on them and offers each individual a chance to express their thoughts and emotions gives it an added layer of authenticity that makes it all the more exciting to watch. We begin to connect to these people, and their ideology becomes undoubtedly clear with every passing minute: the planet needs to be protected if we want to see the lifetime of another generation, and our current political climate does not account for that. Their enthusiasm for change is inspiring, and the documentary’s inclusion of such passionate individuals is one of its strongest assets.
Youth V Gov may not be the most groundbreaking or revolutionary documentary out there, but its effective storytelling and captivating filmmaking bring it to life in a way that few films on the topic have ever achieved. The real life people at the heart of the story are truly inspirational and their cause is one that you’ll quickly find yourself both wrapped up in and dedicated to, thanks to their unrelenting passion and the film’s unique way of displaying this. It’s incredibly informative, but in a way that never feels boring or overbearing, instead opting for a much more personal and thoughtful route to tell its story and make its vital message heard. If more documentaries were as engaging and unique as this one, perhaps they wouldn’t be so necessary in the first place.
Youth V Gov will be screened at the Raindance Film Festival on 29-30 October, 2021.