IMDb > If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011)
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
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If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011) More at IMDbPro »

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If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front -- 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.'

Overview

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Directors:
Marshall Curry
Sam Cullman (co-director)
Writers:
Matthew Hamachek (written by)
Marshall Curry (written by)
Contact:
View company contact information for If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front on IMDbPro.
Plot:
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.' Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Awards:
Nominated for Oscar. Another 5 wins & 3 nominations See more »
User Reviews:
A Surprisingly Well-Balanced Study of Social Activism See more (17 total) »

Cast

  (in credits order)
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
Jake Ferguson ... Himself - Earth Liberation Front Activist
Dan McGowan ... Himself - Daniel's Father
Lauren Regan ... Herself - Daniel's Legal Team
Setphen Peifer ... Himself - Assistant U.S. Attorney
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Alberto Gonzales ... Himself (archive footage)

Dan Rather ... Himself (archive footage)

Mike Wallace ... Himself (archive footage)

Directed by
Marshall Curry 
Sam Cullman (co-director)
 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Marshall Curry  written by
Matthew Hamachek  written by

Produced by
Steve Bannatyne .... executive producer (as Stephen Bannatyne)
Marcia Carver .... executive producer: Lucky Hat Entertainment
Sam Cullman .... producer
Marshall Curry .... producer
Sally Jo Fifer .... executive producer: ITVS
Nick Fraser .... executive producer: BBC
Bill Gallagher .... line producer
Simon Kilmurry .... executive producer: POV
Jo Lapping .... producer: BBC
 
Original Music by
James Baxter 
 
Cinematography by
Sam Cullman 
 
Film Editing by
Marshall Curry 
Matthew Hamachek 
 
Production Management
Allison Davis .... production manager
 
Sound Department
Chad Birmingham .... sound editor
Chad Birmingham .... sound re-recording mixer
Sam Cullman .... sound recordist
Marshall Curry .... sound recordist
Paul Hsu .... sound designer
 
Visual Effects by
Brittany De Nigris .... motion graphics assistant
Joe Posner .... motion graphics
 
Camera and Electrical Department
Marshall Curry .... additional camera
Skye Fitzgerald .... additional camera
Bill Gallagher .... additional camera
Tim Lewis .... additional camera
Jeremy Medoff .... additional camera (as Jeremy Medhoff)
Andrew Pratt .... additional camera (as Andy Pratt)
Yun Rhee .... archival photography
Chris Teague .... additional camera
T.J. Watt .... still photographer
 
Editorial Department
Katie Earls .... post-production assistant
Tina Grapenthin .... assistant editor
Eric Daniel Metzgar .... editor: promotion reel
Mark Rattelle .... post-production assistant
Yun Rhee .... photo editor
Charlie Rokosny .... colorist
Caitlin Tartaro .... on-line producer (uncredited)
 
Music Department
Marshall Curry .... music clearances
The National .... composer: additional music
Nick Stumpf .... composer: additional music
 
Other crew
Iddo Arad .... legal services: Frankfurt, Kurnit, Klein & Selz
Jenile Brooks .... intern
Victoria S. Cook .... legal services: Frankfurt, Kurnit, Klein & Selz
Jason Emerton .... business affairs: BBC
Zach Fox .... intern
Noah Goldman .... intern
Karen Holmes .... intern
Rachel Kolb .... intern
Judy Landau .... production research
Steven Loring .... archival research
Priya Masilamani .... legal services: Lowenstein Sandler
Liza Mueller .... transcriptions
Mike Ohrenberger .... intern
Ann Orrin .... intern (as Anne Orrin)
Denise Pasquinelli .... intern
Ludovic Pronko .... intern
Karen Shatzkin .... legal services: Shatskin & Mayer
Taiki Sugioka .... intern
Kara Suzanne .... bookkeeper
Babette Wielenga .... intern
Davis Wright .... legal services (as Davis Wright Tremaine)
Edward M. Zimmerman .... legal services: Lowenstein Sandler
Dan Berger .... production coordinator (uncredited)
David Magdael .... publicist (uncredited)
 
Thanks
David Cieri .... thanks
Cecil Esquivel-Obregon .... thanks
Liz Garbus .... thanks
Ryan Harrington .... thank you
 

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Additional Details

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Runtime:
85 min
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Soundtrack:
Sleep Now In The FireSee more »

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23 out of 28 people found the following review useful.
A Surprisingly Well-Balanced Study of Social Activism, 25 August 2011
Author: rbsteury from United States

I saw this film this July at the Traverse City Film Festival. Actually, I was dragged there by my daughter (who is much more of an activist concerning environmental issues than am I.) I generally avoid environmental documentaries because many times they paint a very black and white view of the issues. This film is an engrossing and gratifying exception.

The film follows former Earth Liberation Front (ELF) activist Daniel McGowan from his arrest by the FBI as an "environmental terrorist" through his legal efforts to avoid a life sentence. Even though his actions only resulted in destruction of property without loss of life or even physical harm to living creatures, the government was determined to make an example of Daniel and a few others of the formerly close-knit group. For many years they had no leads in ELF's membership and the crimes (destroying -- primarily by arson -- ranger stations and businesses that they considered destructive to the environment). They only cracked the case 5 years after the organization had disbanded by treating it as a "cold case." At that time, the FBI serendipitously uncovered information which led to the identification of one of the more hard-core and less altruistic members of the group who then turned informant on the rest of the members, which resulted in his doing no jail time at all while his fellow conspirators faced life sentences. Unfair, but not uncommon in our system of "justice."

Daniel McGowan is a city-raised young man from New York who became infatuated with environmental activists, participating in their peaceful and legal protests. Upon seeing the foolish and counterproductive hard-nosed repression of those protests by government and police agencies, he decided to throw his lot in with others in ELF and resorted to property damage to make corporations and the government "feel the pain" of their policies.

Here is where the documentary becomes wonderfully balanced, allowing the pursuing government agencies their frustrations and those property owners who had been attacked to voice the disruption and anxiety that ELF caused in their life. At times, ELF acted on faulty information which resulted in businesses being attacked who were completely innocent of the policies ELF felt were destructive to the earth.

Daniel himself comes off as idealistic and frustrated, but often misguided and gullible. As his life progresses, he becomes wiser about some of his decisions and regretful of the destruction in which he participated and how the consequences of that destruction was often (but not always) negative to the environmental movement. However, after his arrest he would not testify against his fellow ELF members (one of the few) and therefore received some of the harshest punishment. One can find some sympathy for him, especially with the idea that he was equated in the justice system with terrorists such as Timothy McVeigh or the 9/11 terrorists, although he never physically harmed any living being.

But the prosecutors are also portrayed in a generally positive light, with one saying at the end of the film (to paraphrase) that he was old enough to understand that not everything is black and white... that life is much more complicated than that. He said that once he understood where Daniel came from and why he believed as he did, he could understand why he might make the decisions he did, wrong-headed as they were. Such enlightenment being shown by our government officials is somewhat unusual.

The co-directer, Sam Cullman, who held a Q&A after the screening at Traverse City, said this is "A" story of ELF, and not "The" story, and I think that is well-stated. The organization probably has many stories as each member had his or her own motivations.

The larger question remains... if faced with a resistant and unresponsive establishment, how is change effected? This film adds to that discussion in a balanced and educational, but compelling way, making it one of the best docs about tactics used by social and environmental movements. 9/10

Was the above review useful to you?
See more (17 total) »

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The Rest of the Story? rmatlan
First your property then your lawn, you're missing the whole point! juancarlosadex-250-234756
Very Balanced thanasaki_mtl
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