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Jennifer De Lucia
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 »
I've seen this trend in documentary films, particularly in American ones: the story of a social movement or something wrong going on is told from the point of view of an affected individual, more often than not delivering not only information but a sentimental message, trying to make you emphatize with that particular individual. For me, that's a mistake.
When a cause is wrapped up around a single person and becomes a personal issue rather than an universal fight, the whole thing sinks down under just "a" story. Thus my summary comment: "the" story would have been better, without the whole sentimental filling.
Now, I ordered the DVD expecting to get more information about the ELF and related issues. I certainly did, although I had to cope with a lot of those sentimental fillers. Don't get my wrong, I do think that seeing what happens to someone involved with the ELF is educational, although there's no need to go that deep into Daniel's own life. You get involved knowing the repercussions, I'm sure people supporting the ELF emphatize with Daniel McGowan, and detractors will say "that's what he deserves". Then, again, why going so much into Daniel's private life details, not directly involving the ELF or environmental issues but rather trying to show his defects? For those wanting to get involved in the environmental movement, that may only scare them away. OK, some (if not all) of the stuff will simply anger these people, which in return will create, perhaps, an action. From my European point of view (and environmental activist, as well), I don't see the sentimental lines fitting anywhere. Alright, I'll stop repeating myself now. As I was saying, you will find useful information here (I discovered, among other things, the rare film "PiackAxe"). I didn't watch the extras yet, but I hope I will find even more nice information here -without fillers-.
I believe the film also try to portrait ELF people like "humans too" by showing their mistakes and weakness'. Hm, about that, let's just say that activists should take it as a what-not-to-do list rather than a pointing finger. I still don't see any so-called mistakes there, even though I do see how messed up is to betray your comrades for money or other selfish reasons (being able to walk free hand by hand with your child is more valuable than fighting against the total destruction of our natural world, right? If your child doesn't have air to breathe in the future but the one sold by the same corporations that destroyed the planet, you will be long gone by then, so who cares...).
Summarizing, worth watching, even with its flaws. If just for the informative value. If you can focus on what really is important, you will find the destruction mankind bring for greed. And, hopefully, will do something about it.
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