If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
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I did enjoy finding out more about the ELF movement

Author: ThreeGuysOneMovie from United States
26 May 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A so so documentary, I did enjoy finding out more about the ELF movement. However, I had a hard time relating to the main protagonist Daniel McGowan. He just was not a very interesting person, in fact I found him highly annoying.

It's a pretty standard documentary. I did find some of the information informative, but I did not really see this film breaking any new ground. One thing that stuck in my mind was the idea that you are going to push peaceful protesters to do other things, when you remove their ability to peacefully protest. It was something I had been tossing around in my mind anyway, but this sort of provided a further example.

Check out our full review at 3guys1movie.com

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:


Author: T Cady from United States
21 November 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"If A Tree Falls," is a documentary about the ELF (earth liberation front) and the fires they set in protest of the parks services, forest service, and logging.

It's an interesting movie, and somewhat educational. On purely technical aspects alone I give it an 8. It did a good job of laying out everyone and everything involved, all sides, including prosecutors, law enforcement, environmental activists, and a few of the ELF extremists.

Now for the spoiler alert. This documentary ends up trying to get the viewer to weigh in on not the actual events, but on whether or not these people are terrorists and deserve to go to a prison designed specifically for terrorists. My answer is yes. They try to justify their unlawful actions by saying they took great care in planning so no one would be injured or killed. The fact is they planned and carried out a Federal crime and burnt down other people, and our government's property to incite a reaction. They paint the main character of this film as a really nice guy, who got caught up in something dumb. Well he should have thought about the consequences when he did it. Besides, I am sure there are a lot of terrorists, murders, arsonists, etc. around the world, that if you asked their families, would say that their child was "such a good boy."

He ended up being sentenced to 7 years in the Supermax prison for terrorists. I guess he will have plenty of time to think about it now. Arson is a serious crime that COULD have caused injury and death, and I after the first fire the ELF members should be called terrorists, because if you were in that area and owned a business I am sure you would be afraid someone might burn your business down at anytime. Once the government gets done with these people I sure hope they go after that adolescent Paul Watson from "Whale Wars" for piracy.

The police were cast in a bad light in this movie as well. Environmentalists, as they always do, tried to paint law enforcement as some nazi jackboot thugs. They show people at a Pacific Northwest location involved in a protest "sit-in," and Police wiping and spraying pepper spray in their eyes. The whole time these protesters are saying things like,"Please don't hurt me," or," Please don't spray me. Well, you were asked, then told to leave. If you don't leave the police have an obligation to remove you. Stop getting your panties in a bunch and leave if you don't want to be sprayed.

Anyways, for technical reasons this movie is a pretty good one.

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1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

High hopes, disappointing results

Author: natal_queen from United States
22 September 2014

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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1 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

When terrorism doesn't kill

Author: evening1 from United States
4 January 2013

There's a show on the National Geographic Channel called "Locked Up Abroad" about people who have no real goals in life and because of short-sighted acts of criminality wind up imprisoned in foreign lands.

The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) members depicted here seem like stateside equivalents of these naive and myopic drifters. Taking up arms against Oregon lumber mills seems to give them a raison d'etre and a way to belong -- and consequences to the victims or themselves be damned.

This film spotlights the case of Daniel McGowan, the rather desultory, 20-something son of a New York City cop who finds a calling with the ELF, which opposes things like old-growth lumbering and genetic engineering and takes to burning down some of the places it believes take part in such activities.

While it surely seems wrong for the wood industry to destroy 1,000-year-old trees, when a tree is cut six more must be planted, as one trade representative explains. However, none of the activists is ever asked to comment about that, which seems one of the few glaring omissions in this largely balanced documentary.

Daniel comes across as an easy-going, principled young man with an unfortunate tendency to overlook the consequences of his actions until they're splashed across TV screens on the evening news. All too belatedly he realizes that when you torch someone else's property, all people will see is the mayhem you have wrought -- your lofty ideals get lost in the rubble.

It's hard on Daniel's laconic father and his sympathetic and self-sacrificing sister when he finally cops a plea -- like nearly all of his fellow compatriots in crime -- although in contrast to many, Daniel declines to rat out any peer. This lands him a seven-year sentence in an Illinois prison for terrorists.

The film lavishes too much time on the question of whether felons like Daniel should be considered terrorists if they scrupulously have avoided injuring or killing people. Yet, as one US official points out, you don't have to be Bonnie and Clyde to be a bank robber, nor Osama bin Laden to be a terrorist.

So quiet-spoken Daniel will carry the label of terrorist for the rest of his days.

This thought-provoking work is an effective argument against emotion-driven mischief-making. If you want to make a change in a democracy you'd better do so without destroying your opponents' stuff -- the Boston Tea Party notwithstanding.

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1 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Tired of crybabies

Author: philysstar from United States
1 April 2012

If you go back in history and read about real heroes you can get a clear idea about what exactly is wrong with our society today.. Greek heroes during the Greek rebellion in 1821 opted for torture and death upon their arrest instead of surrendering key information to the Ottomans. Mexican Commander Antonio López de Santa Anna when he got arrested after the battle of San Jacinto begged for his life and signed the Treaties of Velasco, in which he agreed to withdraw his troops from Texan soil and, in exchange for safe conduct back to Mexico, lobby there for recognition of the new republic (which led to the independence of the state of Texas. And what about activists you might ask? Well this movie will tell you a lot about their courage, determination, perseverance and a whole bunch of life skills they claim to carry..

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12 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

Fascinating....but perhaps a bit misguided.

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
27 October 2011

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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2 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

What to do

Author: kerangador from Singapore
20 February 2012

"What to do when you're screaming out and no one wants to hear you?" I thought they would have learned the lesson in kindergarten.

The eco-terrorists look to me like a bunch of spoiled rich brats who just want to have a tantrum, in this involving arson, because it seems no one wants to hear them.

You know them - they're usually the kids in the classroom who are screaming out because they didn't get cake.

Here's an idea. Go to a third-world country if you're so concerned and work with the villagers there.

Going out and burning stuff down is just wrong. In that case, everyone should get a gun and start taking matters into their own hands. Now where would that lead us?

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