by Marshall Curry
2011, 85 minutes, DVD
In December 2005, Daniel McGowan was arrested by Federal agents in a nationwide sweep of radical environmentalists involved with the Earth Liberation Front-- a group the FBI has called America's "number one domestic terrorism threat."
For years, the ELF—operating in separate anonymous cells without any central leadership—had launched spectacular arsons against dozens of businesses they accused of destroying the environment: timber companies, SUV dealerships, wild horse slaughterhouses, and a $12 million ski lodge at Vail, Colorado.
With the arrest of Daniel and thirteen others, the government had cracked what was probably the largest ELF cell in America and brought down the group responsible for the very first ELF arsons in this country.
IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT tells the remarkable story of the rise and fall of this ELF cell, by focusing on the transformation and radicalization of one of its members.
Part coming-of-age tale, part cops-and-robbers thrilller, the film interweaves a verite chronicle of Daniel on house arrest as he faces life in prison, with a dramatic recounting of the events that led to his involvement with the group. And along the way it asks hard questions about environmentalism, activism, and the way we define terrorism.
Drawing from striking archival footage -- much of it never before seen -- and intimate interviews with ELF members, and with the prosecutor and detective who were chasing them, IF A TREE FALLS explores the tumultuous period from 1995 until early 2001 when environmentalists were clashing with timber companies and law enforcement, and the word "terrorism" had not yet been altered by 9/11.
- 2012 Academy Award Nominee - Best Documentary Feature
- Sundance Film Festival -- Winner, Documentary Editing Award
- Dallas Film Festival -- Winner, Environmental Visions Award
- Nashville Film Festival -- Winner, Best Documentary
- Santa Cruz Film Festival - Winner, EarthVision Environmental Jury Prize
- Traverse City Film Festival -- Winner, Founders Award Best Documentary
- Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival -- Winner, Best Feature
- Princeton Environmental Film Festival -- Winner, Best in Festival
*Note from Burning Books:
The packaging on this DVD is exceptional. Once you get past the slip case, you find an aerial shot of a devastating mountain clear cut. Continuing to open the package, the next view you get is of hands constructing an electrical timing device for a firebomb. After that you get a panoramic view of the Superior Lumber company offices ablaze courtesy of the ELF accompanied by the full text of the ELF's communique for the action. Finally, if you spread open the slipcase, you'll get a glimpse of the interior damage at Superior Lumber. All of this is printed on "Paper from responsible sources," as certified by the Forrest Stewardship Council. The special features on the DVD include; deleted scenes, extended interviews with Jonathan Paul, Leslie James Pickering and an FBI agent, updates from subjects in the film titled "You Cannot Control What is Wild," post screening Q&A in Ashland Oregon, and the original theatrical trailer.