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
A good documentary about a fascinating subject, but it opened up a lot of questions and left me wanting more. For example, a look at Wikipedia shows you that ELF did not begin randomly in Oregon in the late 90s, but in fact started in the UK and Europe. I wanted to learn more about these organizations - their views, their actions, and their leaders. The documentary shows pictures of the people involved, but we learn very little about them, and often don't even hear their names. One of them was even described as a rich, foxy internet executive, who did a little arson on weekends - but who the heck was she? Also, the trials aren't covered at all. However, the filmmakers do give us a full look at one of the group's leaders, a seemingly harmless soul named Daniel "Sorrel" McGowan, and we also get to see interviews with detectives and prosecutors who worked hard on the case, and got the ELF labelled terrorists. They were not terrorists because they did not kill random civilians - what they did was destroy property. And the fires they set are nothing compared to the fires that are burning in Oregon as I write this because of climate change.
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