This two-part film series unfolds around activists and their use of the necessity defense in jury trials in different regions of the US after being charged with trespassing. Legal strategies in the climate movement take center stage as Indigenous leaders and Native and non-Native activists respond to the growing climate emergency. From the Mississippi Headwaters, wild rice fields and Great Lakes in Part I to the rivers and mountains of the Columbia River Gorge in Part II, awe-inspiring terrains are sites of coordinated resistance to corporate expansion of oil through pipelines, rail and terminals to get their lethal products to market. As inspiring and hopeful as they are informative, the films show how alliances form around shared commitments to save the planet.
It's notoriously hard to make films about climate change that are pleasurable to watch. The NECESSITY filmmakers have done just that. Their two-part series captures the awe-inspiring beauty of threatened lands and waterways and the creativity of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people putting their bodies on the line in saying "No to Oil." . Each of the documentaries is structured around a group of climate activists using the necessity defense in a jury trial. But we see how the success of this legal strategy depends on many lines of solidarity outside the courtrooms, from Indigenous water protectors and white allies, urban activists and small-town dwellers, environmentalists and union leaders, to different generations of people joining arms in a common fight to stop the lethal threat of fossil fuels. Everyone should see the NECESSITY series. The films are inspiring and profoundly informative. ---Naomi Klein, Professor of Climate Justice, University of British Columbia, filmmaker, and author of The Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything
“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 is a thoughtfully done portrayal of indigenous activism around an urgent environmental issue. It’s sure to generate engaging discussion when used in classroom settings and is highly recommended for academic and public libraries." -Reviewed by Abbey B. Lewis, STEM Learning & Collections Librarian, University of Colorado Boulder
"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
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.