Necessity: Oil, Water and Climate Resistance

In a climate emergency, is civil disobedience a necessity?

Project type: Documentary Feature
Project status: Post-production
Director/Producer: Jan Haaken
Co-director: Samantha Praus
Producers: David Cress and Frann Michel
Director of Photography: Morgan Robinson
Editor: Emily von W. Gilbert
Twitter: @necessitythemovie
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Necessity traces the fight in Minnesota against the expansion of pipelines carrying toxic tar sands oil through North America. Home to much of the world’s precious freshwater resources, the state is also the site of expanding oil industry infrastructure. The film follows indigenous activists and non-indigenous allies in their resistance to the pipelines traversing native lands and essential waterways.


Grounded in people and places at the heart of the climate crisis, Necessity traces the fight in Minnesota against the expansion of pipelines carrying toxic tar sands oil through North America. The story unfolds in a setting where indigenous activists and non-indigenous allies make use of the necessity defense in making a moral case for acts of civil disobedience. Many of these activists were part of the Standing Rock resistance in North Dakota and carry into this site of struggle their knowledge of resistance strategies, as well as their experiences of loss and trauma. The film is structured around two stories of activists engaged in civil disobedience and using the necessity defense. One case centers on activists locking down a local Wells Fargo, a major investor in the pipelines. The other centers on climate activists as they prepare for a landmark jury trial after temporarily shutting down the flow of tar sands oil as part of a multi-state coordinated action. Movement lawyers defending activists in court must prove that the threat of the climate emergency justified acts of civil disobedience and that there were no legal alternatives. Water Protector Debra Topping guides us through areas where pipelines cross tribal lands and where native resistance is mounting. Tribal attorney Tara Houska shows how the destructive path of these pipelines endangers indigenous communities most directly. The film calls into question whether legal strategies are sufficient in responding to the scale of the global climate crisis.

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Meet the Filmmakers

Jan Haaken — Director/Producer

Jan Haaken is professor emeritus of psychology at Portland State University, a clinical and community psychologist, and documentary filmmaker. From refugee camps, war zones, abortion clinics, and mental hospitals to drag bars, hip-hop clubs and dairy farms, Haaken’s documentary films focus on stressful jobs carried out on social borders and liminal spaces. As a psychologist and documentarian, Haaken weaves research and historical analyses into rich and vividly drawn landscapes that represent the perspectives of her subjects.

Haaken has directed and/or produced six feature-length films, including Diamonds, Guns, and Rice, Moving to the Beat, Guilty Except for Insanity, Mind Zone: Therapists Behind the Front Lines, Milk Men: The Life and Times of Dairy Farmers, and Our Bodies Our Doctors. She has directed five short films, including two recent documentaries on abortion providers produced by a team at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor that carries out anti-stigma research.

Samantha Praus — Co-Director

Sam is a queer, latinx independent filmmaker & researcher based in Portland, OR. With a background in Cultural Anthropology, she also works with local and national government agencies on public health research projects and as a Media Consultant with KGW Media Group. Her most recent projects include feature-length documentaries, Necessity (Co-director), Our Bodies Our Doctors (Assistant Director).

David Cress — Producer

David Cress is an independent producer. His feature film experience includes the Independent Spirit nominated best feature Paranoid Park. As a founding partner of Foodchain Films, Cress envisioned and established the commercial production company as a home for talented people. Awards bestowed include a host of stand-out work recognized by Cannes, Clio, CA, and One Show. Cress is currently Producer of Our Bodies, Our Doctors and Producer of the TV series, Documentary Now!

Morgan Robinson — Director of Photography

Morgan is an award-winning Brooklyn-based filmmaker with fifteen years of professional experience. His passion is telling stories that build empathy and incite action towards a healthier and more just planet Earth. Morgan’s documentary work has aired on PBS, MTV and Viceland. He also produces videos for non-profits and corporations and stays busy as a traditional and aerial cinematographer.

Emily von W. Gilbert — Editor

Emily started editing ten years ago in a documentary production class for George Stoney at NYU. From there, she moved to Portland, Oregon where for the past ten years she’s edited experimental projects, fundraisers, documentaries, language lessons, corporate presentations, TV shows.

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