The Reluctant Radical
The Reluctant Radical
The Reluctant Radical
The Reluctant Radical
The Reluctant Radical
The Reluctant Radical
The Reluctant Radical

The Reluctant Radical

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    • Directed by: Lindsey Grayzel
    • Released: 2018 (educational)
    • Year of Production: 2018
Running Time: 77 min + 56 min classroom version 
Language: English, Closed Captioned
Subjects: Environmental Studies, Science & Nature, Human Rights
THE RELUCTANT RADICAL is an intimate portrait of climate activist Ken Ward. Ken breaks the law as a last resort and with great trepidation, to fulfill what he sees as his personal obligation to future generations. The film follows Ken through a series of civil disobedience direct actions, culminating with his participation in the coordinated action that shut down all the U.S. tar sands oil pipelines on October 11, 2016. Facing 20 years in prison for his actions, the film reveals both the personal costs and also the fulfillment that comes from following one’s moral calling.  

Read the NY Times coverage of the "Valve Turners", the group of activists Ken Ward collaborated with to take direct action on the U.S. tar sands oil pipelines.


  • World Premiere - Big Sky Documentary Film Festival (Feature Competition)
  • Portland EcoFilm Festival - SOLD OUT
  • Salem Film Festival - SOLD OUT
  • Princeton Environmental Film Festival
  • Ashland Independent Film Festival - SOLD OUT
  • Thin Line Fest
  • Darkside Cinema, Corvallis OR - SOLD OUT


"[The Reluctant Radical] shadows Ward as he engages in peaceful protests with the aim of doing whatever is humanly possible, for one person, to stop the actions of big business that are harming the environment. He attempts to block boats headed to the ice caps to drill for oil, to stop the delivery of coal to power plants, even stands in front of gas stations with signs declaring them to be evil. His actions land him in jail on more than one occasion, with one especially significant event resulting in a felony charge and a criminal trial. Climate change can be an uncomfortable topic to discuss, regardless of your personal feelings on the issue. Scientific data, some of which is included in the film, continually substantiates the claim that climate change is happening and human actions are a contributing factor. Yet, many feel helpless when it comes to stopping it. Ward and the film show how one person can act. Overall this film is recommended. It creates an urgency for the viewer, for a crisis that may impact all of humankind, if not dealt with properly. The film is deeply personal, passionate, and could very well be inspiring to many. Recommended." - Educational Media Reviews Online, Erin Rowley, University at Buffalo Libraries


"RECOMMENDED" - Video Librarian

"The Reluctant Radical is the most striking environmental documentary I’ve seen to date—and I have seen plenty. It is an absolute must-see.” D. Schwartz for Cine Source

"A film that is both a vivid portrait of an activist and an addictive suspense thriller—a Hitchcockian riff on An Inconvenient Truth....The Reluctant Radical unleashes waves of conflicted feelings. It takes you from the tension-soaked high of watching Ward snap a chain with bolt cutters to eerily intimate moments in which we see the emotional toll his grim quest exacts on his girlfriend, Laura Byerly, and his son, Eli.” - The Willamette Week

"Nothing, not a broken oar or a padlocked chain or a 9,000-ton Finnish icebreaker, can stop Ken Ward from trying to protect his son, and the world....Grayzel wants us to ponder whether this one-man mission to save the world makes Ward a radical. “Yes” is too easy an answer, and the wrong one if you ask Ward. He has to stop climate change at any cost. His every action is one of common sense. Maybe we’re the crazy ones." - The Missoulian Independent

“The Reluctant Radical chronicles Ward’s efforts over the past few years, centering on #ShutItDown—an October 2016 action in which Ward and other activists stopped tar sand pipelines from pumping oil into the US using, as Grayzel puts it, “bolt cutters and bravery.” In the hours the pipelines remained shut, 15 percent of daily US crude oil imports were blocked. Later, the activists—and The Reluctant Radical’s filmmakers—were arrested and charged with felonies, a reaction that was seen as an attack on the freedom of the press.” - The Portland Mercury

"The film will disturb you, and that isn’t all bad. Sometimes we need to be shaken from our complacency to ponder anew what should be our response to the greatest crisis that human civilization has ever faced.” —Terrance Gallagher, United Church of Christ


There are many fronts in the vast climate fight; this film highlights the personal struggles and victories of one daring path.” - Bill McKibben, Founder

He was told he was crazy, but crazy is sitting idly by as disaster for young people is knowingly locked in.” - Dr. James Hansen, Director of the Program on Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

“The Reluctant Radical is about one man’s courage and conviction confronting climate change; beautifully told with insight and honesty. This is what true patriotism looks like.”  - Peter Cornelison, Co-convener Columbia Gorge Climate Action Network

"If you're deep into the climate movement, you know these are desperate times. A window of opportunity is rapidly closing, and regressive forces have assumed the mantels of power.  That's why, right now, Lindsey Grayzel's "The Reluctant Radical" is so powerful... Ken and his cohort are doing what visionaries of our past have done, using civil disobedience and doggedly articulating a vision of an America capable of doing what's necessary." Jeff Smith, co-chair - 350 Montana

"The Reluctant Radical is an outstanding film that takes us on a thought-provoking and intensely personal journey; a man’s passionate quest to fight our planet’s biggest demons forces him to confront his own demons. It’s a brutally honest story of heroism - full of love, anguish and humor- of an ordinary man taking extraordinary action in the face of the planetary crisis we are living in." Adriana Voss-Andreae, MD PhD, founder 350PDX


Lindsey Grayzel is currently working to distribute THE RELUCTANT RADICAL, her feature length documentary which follows climate activist Ken Ward as he puts himself in the direct path of the fossil fuel industry. She is also in pre-production on an audio documentary about use of the necessity defense by climate activists in court. Lindsey began her career as an editor in 1994, then made the transition to producing and directing in 1999. Her passion for documentary stories has led her to a successful freelance career producing documentary and educational videos for non-profit organizations, local and state governments, and museums. Recent projects include films for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, The Dougy Center, Kenai Fjords National Park and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Whether she is working for a client or pursuing an independent project, Lindsey is thrilled to be dedicating her storytelling talents on projects she feels make a positive impact in the world.

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