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If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011)

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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.'
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 6 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Daniel McGowan ...
Himself - Earth Liberation Front Activist
Lisa McGowan ...
Herself - Daniel's Sister
Tim Lewis ...
Himself - Activist & Filmmaker
Kirk Engdall ...
Himself - Assistant U.S. Attorney
Jim Flynn ...
Himself - Former Editor, Earth First Journal
Jenny Synan ...
Herself - Daniel's Girlfriend
Susan Synan ...
Herself - Jenny's Mother
Bill Barton ...
Himself - Native Forest Council
Leslie James Pickering ...
Himself - Former ELF Spokesman
Greg Harvey ...
Himself - Detective, Eugene Police Department
Chuck Tilby ...
Himself - Captain, Eugene Police Department
Suzanne Savoie ...
Herself - Daniel's Ex-Girlfriend
Steve Swanson ...
Himself - President, Superior Lumber
Chuck Wert ...
Himself - Executive Vice President, Superior Lumber
Don Rice ...
Himself - Manager, Jefferson Poplar Farms


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 Anonymous

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Release Date:

January 2011 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Queda de uma Árvore: A História da Frente de Libertação da Terra  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$5,634 (USA) (24 June 2011)


$61,153 (USA) (19 August 2011)

Company Credits

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Technical Specs



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Did You Know?


Daniel McGowan - Earth Liberation Front Activist: When you're screaming at the top of your lungs and no one hears you, what are you supposed to do?
See more »


References Pickaxe (1999) See more »


Hello Hammerheads
Written by Daniel Snaith
Performed by Caribou
Courtesy of Domino Recording Company of America, Inc / The Leaf Label
Published by Chrysalis Music Group
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User Reviews

High hopes, disappointing results
22 September 2014 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I was excited to learn a bit more about what motivates groups like the ELF, but only learned about one kids predicament. Daniel was difficult to relate to, and simply put, comes across as brat who didn't peak until he met a bunch of outcasts, and I'm not sure if going to prison is the best type of "making it" one should aspire to. As someone who is passionate about this cause, I really wanted to find something redeeming in this organization, but alas, I walked away from the film the same way I feel about groups like PETA and The Discovery Network.

More so, I left not knowing what the objective of the ELF really is, instead just watched a film on a group of young brainwashed kids who act first and worry about consequences later. And when consequences do come, they complain about the harsh sentences (granted it is a bit harsh, but what again, research first before you do something you KNOW is illegal.) I didn't walk away from the film feeling sympathetic to the plight of these members nor do I feel like I got a "behind the scenes look" at the ELF. (Unless of course the ELF is comprised of self-righteous mid- thirty-year-old who still don't understand the concept of crime and punishment.) Perhaps the description should be updated as the whole film was really about Daniel and not so much about their mission of the ELF.

Good soundtrack though.

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