May 15 film event puts personal focus on climate change

The film “The Reluctant Radical” will premiere in Hood River on Tuesday, May 15 at Riverside Community Church.


A short social and climate action information session begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by the movie itself at 7 p.m. Admission is a suggested donation of $10, or $5 for students. Following the screening, Portland director Lindsey Grayzel and the subject of the film, valve turner Ken Ward, will participate in a discussion with the audience.

“The Reluctant Radical” is a climate change film like no other, according to its director. It is centered on the moral question: If a crime is committed in order to prevent a greater crime, is it forgivable? Is it, in fact, necessary?

“The Reluctant Radical” follows Ward as he confronts his fears and puts himself in the direct path of the fossil fuel industry to combat climate change.

Grayzel is hoping audiences will think about the subject, consider the full import of it, and use it as a motivation to take action in their own lives.

“I am surprised that the question about denial when it comes to climate change, when people understand how critical it is, we can’t psychologically focus on it because it’s too depressing,” Grayzel said in a phone interview. “It rarely comes up, but it is a huge theme in the film.

“It’s almost too uncomfortable to talk about it, but that’s a little sad, but I was hoping the film would enable the conversations to happen. People say, ‘I want action A and have it result in B, tell me what to do so I can stop global warming.’

“What isn’t asked is how did you live with this knowledge and move forward without getting stuck, and there is no easy answer to that,” Grayzel said. On the other hand, “the film has a lot of humor,” she said.

“We’re all in a position of finding our way the best we can, and for me that meant making this film and now making sure enough people see it so people are put in an intersection where they can judge it for themselves.

She said that “the film reveals both the personal costs and also the fulfillment that comes from following one’s moral calling — even if that means breaking the law.”

It follows Ward through a series of direct actions, culminating with an action that shuts down all the U.S. tar sands oil pipelines and threatens to put him behind bars for 20 years.

Ward has no regrets, and his certainty leaves the audience to consider if he is out of touch with reality, or if it is the rest of society that is delusional for not acting when faced with the unsettling evidence that we are collectively destroying our world, noted Grayzel, who was arrested and charged with crimes for filming Ward’s actions in October 2016. Her arrest contributed to the alarm that press freedom and First Amendment rights have increasingly come under attack as law enforcement favors corporate fossil fuel interests over citizen’ rights. Her charges have been dropped.

Willamette Week had this to say: “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.”

“He was told he was crazy, but crazy is sitting idly by as disaster for young people is knowingly locked in,” said Dr. James Hansen, climate scientist.

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