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

2011

Biography / Crime / Documentary / Drama / History / News / Thriller

95
Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 88%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 75%
IMDb Rating 7.2 10 3,034

Synopsis


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January 12, 2021

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786.88 MB
1280*720
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
85 min
P/S N/A / N/A
1.43 GB
1920×1080
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
85 min
P/S N/A / N/A

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by rbsteury 9 / 10 / 10

A Surprisingly Well-Balanced Study of Social Activism

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

Reviewed by paul2001sw-1 10 / 10 / 10

Terrorists-U-Like

What do you do if you feel something terrible is happening, and the cause of that terrible thing is systematic? - that is, the systems for governing our world offer no possibility of change, because they themselves are part of the problem. Either you accept the system, or you fight it - and if your methods include violence, you thereby become a terrorist, and (in a sense) an enemy of those who chose to work within the system instead. The Earth Liberation Front were a group of ecological activists who took to arson; and whose members eventually wound up in gaol. This film allows them to present their case, and interestingly, they come over as intelligent and thoughtful and not in the least wild or woolly in their thinking. To its credit, the film also interviews some of their targets and those responsible for their prosecution, who are not demonised and who also come over as human. The only thing I struggled with was the insistence of front members that they weren't terrorists. I rather think they were - but this thought-provoking documentary raises the question of whether being a terrorist is always wrong, and doesn't offer easy answers in either direction.

Reviewed by conorkeenan1 10 / 10 / 10

Great documentary showing the people willing to fight back against the corporations

Great documentary showing the people who are willing to fight back against the corporations that are not only willing to destroy and pillage mother nature for profit but are happy to do so. Do I agree with their tactics? No, but am I happy there is now a new extreme fighting back against the other extreme? Yes. For too long corporations have done what they please without caring for anything but the money lining their pockets. This documentary shows the people who where willing to stand up and say enough is enough. Peaceful protests just fell on deaf ears and ended with pepper spray to the eyes and testicles. These guys had enough, they knew for a fact that their protests where not going to change anything so they had to turn it up notch. Corporations would not listen to their cries and simply didn't care so ELF decided to hit them in the only place they care about, their pockets. This documentary follows the story of one of these protesters who decided to fight back and stand up for what he thought was right. Should these people be considered terrorists? No, they should be considered arsonists. If the government defines these people as terrorists then what name should be given to the corporations who drove these people to take these actions? Again I do not condone the actions of these people but they are the lesser of two evils in this situation.

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