Transforming the world’s outlook on climate change is a daunting task, but activist Ken Ward lives to do exactly that. For Ward, no action is too small—from anchoring tiny lobster boats in the path of corporate, coal-hauling ships, to handing out pamphlets while blocking Exxon gas pumps. Enthralled by his non-violent activism, local filmmaker Lindsey Grayzel decided to share his story in a documentary, The Reluctant Radical.
Calling Ward “one of a few brave souls who are willing to step radically outside of their comfort zone to do what they feel is necessary,” Grayzel tells me her first conversation with Ward made her feel differently about climate change. “We should all be concerned, because we live on this planet, and this is no longer some far-off, distant threat,” Grayzel says. “The actions that are being taken are woefully inadequate to address the scale of the problem. It’s going to take all of us to be outraged and engaged to turn it around.”
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. Ward’s #ShutItDown action eventually incited a mistrial which, Grayzel explains, “is remarkable because he never said he didn’t do it. He looked them in the eye and said, ‘Yeah, I did this because it’s important,’ and the jury was unable to come to an agreement to convict him.”
As The Reluctant Radical wraps up post-production—and prepares to shoot an unexpected second tril—Ward, Grayzel, and co-producer Deia Schlosberg will visit the Portland EcoFilm Festival, screening footage from the film and participating in a Q&A about climate change, journalism under threat, and more. All ticket sales will go to completing the film.