An Interview with Standing Rock, Take Me From the River Director Denny Rauen

Posted by Caitlin Morin, January 28, 2018

By Caitlin Morin

Denny Rauen, director of Standing Rock, Tame Me from the River talked to us about his new documentary in this exclusive interview. Rauen will attend Cinema Verde and hold an audience Q&A after the screening of his film.


One day Denny Rauen found himself protesting against the Dakota Access Pipeline with the Overpass Light Brigade and a group of Native Americans. The experience turned out very different from what he was expecting. He brought his camera and equipment with him, though at the time he had not gone there to make a film but simply to help the protesters.

He never imagined that with the footage he captured would turn into a movie. “It was not until after my second trip that I looked at what Michael Bootzin and I had I combined that and saw that I had a story,” Rauen remembered. At first, he had just wanted to help these people stand their ground, but soon enough he found himself wanting to share what he had witnessed.

“I wanted to tell this story.” And so it was that this story became Standing Rock, Take Me From the River (2017).

Rauen’s coworker and photographer Joe Brusky had been at Standing Rock for a few weeks when he invited him to come along with the Overpass Light Brigade and citizens from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Right after leaving the film site, Rauen posted a video of some of his shots on social media in order to show people what was really happening. This helped build the movement on social media. Eventually, the governor forced him to take it down.

“Officers were using a roadblock and not letting people through,” Rauen recalled. “You could leave but no one else could enter. Anyone with a camera was being arrested. On our way out they did not see my cameras, so I was not arrested.” The oil company was trying to keep the attention away from Standing Rock in an attempt to keep the situation under control.

Similarly to his other guerilla styled short films, Rauen’s goal in making this movie was to raise awareness about an environmental cause. The film documents the long and dangerous 800 mile journey of activist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Standing Rock, Sakowin camp to protect their land from the Dakota Access Pipeline and the oil company.


The filmmaker was trying to document the truth of what happened at Standing Rock. He shared that during his experience he discovered that the alleged rioters were not rioters at all–they were peaceful protectors of the water. The news was not showing the full story. They portrayed the Native Americans and protesters as violent protesters trying to aggravate the oil company.

In reality, however, they were peaceful citizens trying to protect what was rightfully theirs. Several treaties were being broken and the oil company simply ignored what the world
was telling them. They were focused on the money the pipeline would bring in, not the
environment or the people it would affect.

The truth was that the oil company was unjust in how they treated the activists and Native Americans. In the interview Rauen stated, “The oil company grew impatient and started using severe tactics to win. I was surprised by the level of force that was used. They brought out the dogs and used mace.” The tension and danger hit a climax when private security firms started using alternative violent methods against the protesters.

According to a spokeswoman from the Morton County Sheriff’s Department, “Officers tried to disperse the crowds with water sprayed from hoses attached to fire engines, and also fired rubber bullets and tear gas.”

“It is truly frightening to know that this brutality and unjust use of violence occurred here in our country,” Rauen said. As he watched the oil company and police force in action, he realized he wanted to shine a light on the situation.

After 6 months of protesting, it looked like the Native Americans and other protesters were going to be successful. However, it all stopped in February 2017 when President Trump overturned Obama’s decision regarding the pipeline. Trump approved of the building and use of the pipeline and oil is now flowing through it.

Although the movement was unsuccessful in stopping the creation and use of the Dakota
Pipeline, the film helps build awareness to our environment and the people who have the power
to try to stop the protection of it. Currently, the Overpass Light Brigade and the movement from Standing Rock are using their energy and influence to try to protect other bodies of water from the same fate of Standing Rock.

Denny Rauen is looking to the future. He said, “People are looking towards what happened and all the energy that was created. We are currently seeing people focus on using that same energy and momentum to focus on protesting other pipelines.”

Come to Cinema Verde’s 9th annual environmental film festival this February to watch and learn more about this incredible film. Denny Rauen will be doing a Q&A session after his film on Saturday, February 10, at 3:40 pm. Tickets for the festival can be found here.

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