‘How to Blow Up a Pipeline’ explores vigilante eco-sabotage

Apr 5, 2023, 9:01 AM

This image released by Neon shows Forrest Goodluck in a scene from "How to Blow Up a Pipeline." (Ne...

This image released by Neon shows Forrest Goodluck in a scene from "How to Blow Up a Pipeline." (Neon via AP)

(Neon via AP)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — When the creators of “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” initially set out to adapt the book of the same name, which critiques the docility of climate activism, director Daniel Goldhaber had in mind a very different movie than what they eventually made.

“I was very much in a place of anger and feeling very powerless and I was like, ‘Let’s make a big old propaganda piece,’” he said.

Goldhaber recalled his writing partners Ariela Barer, who also stars in the film, and Jordan Sjol talking him out of that place and convincing him that idea would ultimately “make for a very boring movie.”

They decided instead on a kind of heist thriller, which opens in theaters Friday, that follows a group of young activists who plot to take down an oil pipeline in West Texas. While the group is composed of people with starkly different backgrounds and reasons for being there, many of its members are personally affected by climate change and are united in their desperation to fight it — not unlike the young creative team themselves.

Neon’s “How to Blow Up a Pipeline” is decidedly less prescriptive than Andreas Malm’s 2021 book, which argues that climate activists ought to look to past movements, such as the abolitionists and suffragettes, to see that substantial reforms in modern history have rarely been propagated by pacifism.

Goldhaber said he took into account critiques of the book and hopes the film is seen as a nuanced adaptation.

“If there’s a political viewpoint of the film, it’s not, ‘Go out and blow up a pipeline,’” he said.

But the movie does rely heavily on arguments that Malm puts forward, an idea which came from Sjol’s musings about “adapting a work of academic theory into a movie,” Goldhaber explained.

Malm is a scholar of human ecology, an interdisciplinary field of research that focuses on human relationships to their environments across cultures. In his work on the climate movement, Malm has been an outspoken critic of nonviolence and a proponent of property destruction, calling it the only viable response to the enduring power of the fossil fuel industry.

“How to Blow Up a Pipeline” joins a growing list of films exploring the issue of climate change and how best to fight it, from dark dramas like “Don’t Look Up.”

Lukas Gage, who joins Barer and other breakout actors in the ensemble cast, recalled getting sent Malm’s book along with the script.

“I read the book first and I thought to myself, ‘How the hell is this going to be a narrative film?’” he said.

Already a fan of Goldhaber’s feature directorial debut, “Cam,” Gage was ultimately persuaded by what he felt was an important story that could facilitate conversations about a way forward in combatting the climate crisis.

“Because of Congress’ failure to do anything about this, it has definitely made me think about what little we can do, but maybe not so little,” he said. “I think it will stick with us forever.”

Gage’s character, Logan, is the obvious outlier of the group, a privileged punk motivated more by love for his girlfriend, Rowan (Kristine Froseth), than by his concern for the environment.

“I grew up in the punk scene in Los Angeles and also in activist spaces and those people are always there. Like, there’s always a Logan and a Rowan,” Barer laughed. “We wanted to have a degree of empathy for people coming in, being so well-meaning, while also unpacking the position their privileges would grant them.”

Despite his position of privilege, Logan’s character arc is a redemptive one, a point Goldhaber felt was important to make.

“Something that was really inherent in the DNA of the project was to just try to combat some of these narratives that I think kind of create a self-perpetuating toxic culture on the left, like the narrative that we can’t come together,” he said.

Goldhaber, who is the son of climate scientists, said he hopes the film adds vulnerability and complexity to their theoretical source material.

“I think that there’s something very provocative in that idea,” he said.


Follow Krysta Fauria on Twitter at https://twitter.com/krystafauria

United States News

FILE - Philippe Lazzarini, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Commissioner-General o...

Associated Press

UN agency for Palestinian refugees raises just $107 million of $300 million needed to help millions

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Despite a dire warning from the U.N. chief that the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees “is on the verge of financial collapse,” donors at a pledging conference on Friday provided just $107 million in new funds — significantly less than the $300 million it needs to keep helping millions of people. […]

1 day ago

FILE - Cherokee Nation Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., speaks during a House Rules Committee hearing at the...

Associated Press

Hoskin seeks second term as leader of powerful Cherokee Nation

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) — Citizens of the Cherokee Nation — the largest Native American tribe in the U.S. — are set to decide whether Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. should lead the tribe for another four years as it enters a golden era after courts recognized its sprawling reservation and an operating budget of more […]

1 day ago

Associated Press

Biden expected to sign budget deal to raise debt ceiling

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is expected to sign legislation on Saturday to raise the debt ceiling, just two days before the U.S. Treasury warned that the country would struggle to pay its bills. The bipartisan measure, which was approved this week by the House and Senate, eliminates the potential for an unprecedented government […]

1 day ago

Boats jockey for position minutes before the opening of the Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery on ...

Associated Press

Tragedy that left 5 dead or missing puts spotlight on safety in Alaska charter fishing industry

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Morgan Robidou posed next to the bright aluminum hull of his prized new vessel, a 30-foot (9-meter) fishing boat that he could use to take friends, family or tourists out after salmon or halibut in the bountiful waters of southeast Alaska. “Official boat owner,” he wrote when he posted the photo […]

1 day ago

A bee arrives at a hive on the roof of the Warren Rudman U.S. Court House, Friday, May 5, 2023, in ...

Associated Press

Buzzworthy: Honeybee health blooming at federal facilities across the country

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — While judges, lawyers and support staff at the federal courthouse in Concord, New Hampshire, keep the American justice system buzzing, thousands of humble honeybees on the building’s roof are playing their part in a more important task — feeding the world. The Warren B. Rudman courthouse is one of several federal […]

1 day ago

FILE - A TV screen shows an image of North Korea's rocket launch during a news program at the Seoul...

Associated Press

US, allies clash with Russia, China over North Korea’s failed military spy satellite launch

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States and its allies clashed with Russia and China on Friday over North Korea’s failed launch of a military spy satellite this week in violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions, which Moscow and Beijing refused to condemn. The confrontation was the latest over the North’s escalating nuclear, ballistic […]

1 day ago

Sponsored Articles



Thank you to Al McCoy for 51 years as voice of the Phoenix Suns

Sanderson Ford wants to share its thanks to Al McCoy for the impact he made in the Valley for more than a half-decade.



Why drug-free weight loss still matters

Wanting to lose weight is a common goal for many people as they progress throughout life, but choosing between a holistic approach or to take medicine can be a tough decision.

(Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona Photo)...

Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona

5 common causes for chronic neck pain

Neck pain can debilitate one’s daily routine, yet 80% of people experience it in their lives and 20%-50% deal with it annually.

‘How to Blow Up a Pipeline’ explores vigilante eco-sabotage