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Sharon D. Allen,
An American sets out with his motorbike to find both adventure and his sense of manhood, leading him on an extraordinary journey he could not have imagined, including fighting in the Libyan Revolution.
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
For a long time I've wondered if radical groups like the ELF are crucial to the causes they support because their tactics bring much-needed attention to the causes, or if they are detrimental because their tactics turn off many people who'd normally be sympathetic to their causes. This film reinforces for me that the answer is "yes" and "yes" -- i.e., "it depends" ... on the cause, on the specific tactics, and ultimately on personal points of view.
IF A TREE FALLS added an interesting angle for me in this notion of the positive/negative net effect of radicalism. I had never thought about the impact of law enforcement's treatment of the radical groups -- i.e., do their tactics (brutal in many cases toward environmental protesters) help or hinder THEIR cause? As I watched the film, I wondered if there were disagreements about tactics/approaches within law enforcement akin to the disagreements within the ELF and the broader environmental activist community.
And that's what makes this film so strong and effective. It prompts you to ask a lot of questions. IF A TREE FALLS does it in a way that is character driven. The broader story unfolds through the stories of individuals who were involved. The result is that you (the audience) get involved!
I highly recommend the film. And like me, you may want to revisit THE THIN BLUE LINE and FIGHT CLUB after you see IF A TREE FALLS.
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