Al Jazeera Close Up

How I got arrested trying to save the planet | Close Up

Activists from Ultima Generazione tell us why they target valuable artworks to highlight the effects of climate change.

“None of us want to be here, but the government is investing in our death!” calls out Leonardo, an Italian climate activist, as he and his teammates block a highly transited street in Milan during rush hour. They are all members of Ultima Generazione —or the Last Generation— an Italian campaign linked to an international network pushing for climate action, popularly known for targeting roads and valued pieces of art.

“We have two to three years to turn things around” adds Martina, a 23-year-old activist who has been detained on several occasions for traffic obstruction and damaging public infrastructure. The consequences of her decisions have led her to lose certain privileges and even sever her relationship with her family. “We used to be very close, and now, we hardly talk to each other (…) This is primarily because I am a part of this movement and they don’t agree with the life choices I’ve made.”

For Ultima Generazione, this form of protest qualifies as non-violent civil disobedience, and Martina confirms this is a basic right available to all citizens if their government isn’t complying with the law, which she assures is the case for Italy. “The country is bringing us all basically to mass genocide”.

In this Close Up episode, we follow Martina as she and her team target one of Milan’s most treasured public sculptures in plain sight, altering it with washable paint. Neither the outrage of the spectators nor the immediate detention of these protesters by the hands of the police seems to change their minds: “We know that what we are doing is right (…) and we are absolutely ready to accept the consequences.”


Executive Producer: Tierney Bonini

Senior Editor: Donald Cameron

This film was supported by The Pulitzer Center

Production Company: Eye Rise Films

Director/Producer: Ana Gonzalez

Producer: Antonia Perello

Original Music: Francisco Sokolowicz

Featuring: Martina Maldifassi

Director of Photography: Marton Kis

Editor: Andrea Yoko / Antonia Perello

Sound Designer: Alex Marais

Colourist: Marton Kis

Italian Transcriber: Cristina Capoccetti

Special Thanks: Ultima Generazione
Tom Hundley
Leo Lovati