It’s a no-brainer that someone from the year 2121 would want to come back in time and save the present to preserve the future. While Raviv Ullman, who played Phil Diffy on Disney’s Phil of the Future, isn’t actually from the future, he still wants to help protect it.
On Tuesday (October 18), Ullman announced he’s directing Standing Ground, a documentary surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) that’s threatening to destroy the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s homeland and affect the water and food supply of millions. Initially, Energy Transfer Partners wanted to construct the pipeline below the Missouri River near Bismarck, North Dakota, but the city’s officials didn’t want to risk contaminating the water with an oil spill — decidedly moving their endeavor to the Sioux Nation’s land. “So that begs the question: Well, if it’s not safe for the people up in Bismarck, then why is it safe for anybody else?” Ullman told MTV News.
Making his documentary directorial debut, Ullman, “a fourth-generation activist,” said the project’s been in pre-production for about a month. He and his friend and Standing Ground producer, Martin Spanjers, recently visited Standing Rock. “It really was right after Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! video came out that I just felt a pull to go out there,” Ullman explained. “I’d been following the story and follow a lot of environmental news and when I saw a lot of the footage out there, it felt like it just pulled me out there.”
In addition to returning to Standing Rock for the documentary, Ullman and Martin will also be covering the PennEast Pipeline in New Jersey, the Trans-Pecos Pipeline in Texas, and even Canada, exploring the aftermath of a community suffering from oil extraction. So, while the DAPL may feel like an isolated incident, it’s anything but. This situation isn’t just “a Native American issue,” but actually affects everyone in the United States.
These pipeline propositions are huge financial endeavors — the DAPL alone is a $3.7 billion project. “It’s not like we’re up against a small company and we can just stop it. This is a systematic thing that I really believe is up to our younger generation, to us, and the people below us to implement,” Ullman said.
Their production comes shortly after Shailene Woodley was arrested during a peaceful protest at Standing Rock. When asked if this was a fear Ullman and his team had, he admitted it was. But with the media constantly being silenced about the situation, Ullman felt like it was their “call to action” to make this film, tell these people’s story, and spread the word to promote change. To learn more about the project, click here.