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IF A TREE FALLS is a rare behind-the-curtain look at the Earth Liberation Front, the radical environmental group that the FBI calls America's 'number one domestic terrorist threat.' With unprecedented access and a nuanced point of view, the documentary tells the story of Daniel McGowan, an ELF member who faced life in prison for two multi-million dollar arsons against Oregon timber companies. The film employs McGowan's story to examine larger questions about environmentalism, activism, and terrorism. Written by
From the Motion Picture "The Kingdom"
Written by Danny Elfman
Performed by Danny Elfman
Courtesy of Universal Studios
Published by Songs of Universal, Inc. on behalf of U.P.G. Music Publ. See more »
This is a documentary about the Earth Liberation Front--an environmental terrorism group that has been associated with over 1200 cases involving vandalism. Their most extreme actions have involve fire bombings of businesses, National Park Service buildings, research labs and many other targets.
The film focuses on several folks who got caught up in various terrorist activities--in particular a guy now living in New York named Daniel. Most of the first half of the film appears to excuse or at least mitigate the fire bombings by these folks and make them and their cause seem valid. Now SOME of the ELF actions seemed very reasonable--such as camping out in trees so that they could at least present their case to the local city council. Others could clearly kill people and have damaged property that, in some cases, has NOTHING to do with harming the environment. In fact, in some cases, the ELF bombings caused MORE damage than if the businesses had simply been left alone. Or, they attack businesses that MIGHT be argued are helping the environment (such as a slaughterhouse that kills wild horses--something SOME environmental groups actually endorse since the horses are not native and damage the land).
So what about the quality of the film? Well, at first I hated it, as it seemed to only present a pro-ELF position. But, fortunately, as the film progresses they do present more folks who are working to stop the ELF--though, on balance, the film seems to be more pro-ELF than anti. This is NOT a complaint--it's almost impossible to present a film that is 100% neutral. And, at least it's neutral enough that I could see people on BOTH sides of the environmental war taking something from the documentary--so it's definitely worth seeing and is well-crafted. I don't have to agree with a film to respect it--and this film is an excellent example.
Finally, perhaps it's just me, but I was a bit taken by many of the pro-ELF folks, as they seemed to enjoy the fruits of modern life and, in some cases, decry the evils of capitalism. Had they lived in the wild and eschewed modern amenities, I would have respected them MUCH more. Give up the TVs, modern homes, internet (including IMDb), cars, store-bought clothing and all the other things that come from the evil corporations--then you have a much more valid case. In the meantime, word 'hypocrisy' seems quite appropriate.
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