IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONTAugust 31, 2011

IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT

Oscilliscope Labs

On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand and from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT (Oscilliscope).

 

IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT

By John Werner
 

The FBI called the Earth Liberation Front, or ELF, one of the most dangerous groups in the country. To illustrate that point, Academy-award nominated director, Marshall Curry opens his documentary with a series of news reports about domestic terrorism. A ski resort burns to the ground, a lumber mill engulfed in flames, more buildings scorched and a press conference by law enforcers celebrating the end of ELF activities.

Daniel McGowan, one of fourteen members of ELF arrested, was working for Marshall Curry’s wife when he was busted. It’s how the director was introduced to his subject.

At first, I thought McGowen wasn’t what you might expect a domestic terrorist to look or sound like. In fact, this unlikely, (and for me unlikable,) protagonist of “IF A TREE FALLS,” initially seems like a pretty ordinary guy. Raised by a NYC cop in Queens, a catholic high school track star, he’d never even been camping until about the time he became an Eco-Terrorist.

 

 

We meet Daniel in his sister’s apartment where he is under house arrest, facing life plus three hundred thirty five years for the two terror attacks he perpetrated in the form of arson (he admits to setting the fires.)

He pads around the kitchen in an ankle bracelet, composting and washing-out plastic bags. His sister tells how he took the label off every single canned good in her house so he could recycle the paper. He did so before she opened them leaving her guessing about what she had in the cans. I admire him for his dedication to the environment, but I don’t sympathize with the guy.

Here’s why: McGowen claims he was not simply burning things down. For him it’s complex and he finds it hideous to be called a terrorist. He points out that no one was hurt, no one was even injured. But hey Daniel, firefighters had to show up and risk their lives. What about them? And what about the people who worked in those businesses, supporting their families?

The backdrop to Daniel’s legal proceeding was eye opening. We see how a part of the movement became radicalized taking Daniel along with it, horrifying mainstream protestors in the process. Tim Lewis, an activist and filmmaker that Curry employed shares very compelling archival footage he shot in Oregon detailing the events that lead to the formation of ELF.

It’s this story of the environmental resistance movement and Daniel’s history in ELF and not his legal battle that are the films strongest points.

Marshall Curry does a good job of letting us formulate our own opinions. Even though Curry narrates parts of the film, I felt like he stayed out of my way and let me decide if I wanted to root for Daniel.

Check out IF A TREE FALLS and decide for yourself. I found myself washing-out a used baggie afterward.

 
RISK IT

 

- John Werner

  John Werner

John Werner is a screenwriter. He also directs, produces and edits documentaries and TV specials. You can find him at www.howlatthemoon.tv

 

Look for IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT (Oscilloscope) under your cable system's Movie On Demand section.


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