In a climate emergency, is civil disobedience a necessity?
NECESSITY traces the fight in Minnesota against the expansion of pipelines carrying highly toxic tar sands oil through Native lands and essential waterways in North America. Front line communities--Native Peoples and communities of color--suffer the most immediate and severe consequences of the climate crisis: impacts on physical and mental health as well as territorial desecration and displacement. Yet with painful histories have come deep insights, forms of resilience and modes of resistance. This feature-length documentary follows indigenous leaders and white allies, using direct action to protect the sacred and demand justice. Legal experts discuss the record of disparate treatment in the justice system and the legal strategy of the necessity defense, which makes a moral case for acts of civil disobedience, while medical and scientific experts address the health effects of fossil fuels and dangers of pipeline and refinery infrastructure. Capturing the natural beauty of the region as well as the vulnerability of local habitats, aesthetic and stylistic elements drive the action forward, including animated maps with illustrations. The filmmaking team builds collectively on their training in psychology and anthropology.
Official Selection of the 20202 Eugene Environmental Film Festival & 2020 Colorado Environmental Film Festival
“I wish that every high school student in the country could watch Necessity. This is a damning portrait of the bankers and builders who crisscross the country with fossil fuel pipelines — and yet it sings with courage and hope. The film offers an intimate look at what happens when people of conscience disobey the law, but stand up for Indigenous rights, environmental justice, and our future.” - Bill Bigelow, Curriculum Editor, Rethinking Schools, Co-Director Zinn Education Project.
"Necessity: Oil, Water and Climate Resistance is a uniquely compelling documentary. My high school students were fascinated to learn of the examples of 21st-century civil disobedience so carefully depicted in this film. Students are used to seeing civil disobedience as it is too often portrayed in textbooks — the sepia-toned photos of the Sit-Ins and Freedom Rides that appear to be relics of the past and not applicable to their own time. This film belongs in our classrooms if we believe students deserve a curriculum that is relevant, urgent, and committed to a just future." -Ursula Wolfe-Rocca, High School Teacher and Editor, Rethinking Schools
“Necessity is an important and accessible film that tackles an incredibly complex intersection of legal, ethical and social issues and tells the story in a straightforward way. The film does for audiences everywhere what we try to do for jurors in a necessity defense trial.” - Tim DeChristopher, Climate Disobedience Center, featured in Bidder 70
BE SURE TO CHECK OUT THE SECOND IN THE SERIES
In the course of screening Necessity: Oil, Water & Climate Resistance at schools, activist events, and festivals, the team began production on a second part, titled Necessity: Climate Justice and the Thin Green Line. Also feature-length, the film is set along the rivers of Oregon and follows activists as they enlist the necessity defense in a jury trial after being arrested for a direct action at Zenith Energy in Portland. This story of climate resistance in the Pacific Northwest brings into view a historical landscape of tribal leaders, Indigenous activists and white allies as they resist oil trains and trucks carrying these highly inflammable products through treaty lands. In following the path of oil-by-rail and oil resistance along the Columbia, we revisit lessons of the New Deal era of building massive dams and what climate activists take from that era in thinking about a Green New Deal.
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About the filmmaker
From refugee camps, shelters, war zones and mental hospitals to drag bars and hip-hop clubs, Jan Haaken’s documentary films focus on people and places on the social margins, drawing out their insights on the world around them. As a psychologist and documentarian, Haaken weaves research and historical analyses into rich and vividly drawn landscapes that represent the perspectives of her subjects. Through the lens of psychology, she takes intimate conversations with people in crisis into wider social vistas, bringing forces on the periphery of the action into focus.
Jan Haaken is professor emeritus of psychology at Portland State University, a clinical psychologist, and documentary filmmaker.
Sam Praus is a queer, latinx documentary filmmaker & researcher based in Portland, OR. Her most recent projects include feature-length documentaries, NECESSITY (Co-director), OUR BODIES OUR DOCTORS (Assistant Director). With a background in Cultural Anthropology, she also works with local and national government agencies on public health research projects. She currently works as a consultant at KGW Media Group.