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If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (2011)

Daniel McGowan , Marshall Curry  |  NR |  DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Daniel McGowan
  • Directors: Marshall Curry
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Oscilloscope Laboratories
  • DVD Release Date: August 30, 2011
  • Run Time: 85 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0053YS9XI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,961 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT is the remarkable story of the group's rise and fall told through the transformation and radicalization of one of its members, Daniel McGowan. Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Marshall Curry (STREET FIGHT, RACING DREAMS) weaves a chronicle of McGowan facing life in prison with a dramatic investigation of the events that led to his involvement with the ELF, creating a film that is equal parts coming-of-age tale and cops-and-robbers thriller. Using never-before-seen archival footage and intimate interviews with cell members and with the prosecutor and detective who were chasing them IF A TREE FALLS asks hard questions about environmentalism, activism, and the way we define terrorism. BONUS FEATURES: Feature length audio commentary with director Marshall Curry, co-director Sam Cullman, and editor Matthew Hamachek Deleted Scenes Extended Interviews

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars HOW -- AND WHO -- DEFINES TERRORISM? October 20, 2011
By the middle of the last decade, the FBI determined the Earth Liberation Front to be "(America's) most dangerous terrorism threat." On December 7, 2005, the feds - in a nation-wide raid -- rounded up radical environmentalist associated with the ELF.

Marshall Curry and Sam Culliman's absorbing and disturbing film follows the ELF's rise and fall as told through the experiences of member Daniel McGowan. Part coming-of-age (or is it "coming of rage"?) story and part a crime thriller as we see Daniel radicalized and then arrested with a possibility of life in prison. With ample archival footage - some of it is guaranteed to outrage - and intimate interviews with cell members, prosecutors, family members and even the detectives pursuing them, this film does not flinch from raising the hard questions about our human role in safe-guarding the environment as well as how -- and who -- defines terrorism.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front October 4, 2011
By damian
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Listening to the commentary track of the director et al, I found myself disagreeing completely with their choice to centre the documentary around one person and unfold the story around him. I thought the bigger picture got diminished in his personal story. Whether they were being careful not to offend the authorities or mindful of funding and distribution politics for independent documentaries.....the tone of the documentary appears to be apologetic and defeatist. It appeared to be a documentary about the 'wrong' choices the activists had made and their now regretful feelings. Instead of soliciting a spectrum of radical opinions and looking at the broader social issues and affects of 'destruction' activism, the documentary seemed to wrong-end the telescope and create an impression of a radical minority who had 'gone overboard'. It almost had the feel of a reality-tv soap opera scripted piece. Neutered and washed clean of any affirmation of its politics and focusing on personal emotion, when it could have been a compelling look at a significant social issue.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Saw this movie July 28, 2011
I saw this doc a few weeks ago at IFC. I thought it was a really interesting doc about an activism group that I didn't know very much about, the ELF. The main subject Dan McGowan is the movie's antihero. He smartly describes about how the group radicalized and later his arrest and indictment. Stylistically, the doc is really well put together. I thought the mix of archival material and interviews over a few years weaved together well/ kept my interest. There is also great music, so I recommend checking out the movie. It's crazy that a story like this can slip through the cracks.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cut off your nose to spite your face? November 24, 2012
A great documentary should show all sides of a controversy, and with that in mind, "If a Tree Falls" succeeds.

Unlike the docs of Michael Moore, which are completely one-sided, co-directors Marshall Curry & Sam Cullman have presented a most informative composite of the issues involved. There's no question that the ELF didn't think before they acted, and a good argument is made about the absolute definition of terrorism. Centering mostly on the plight of Daniel McGowan, the true voice of reason is his sister, Lisa, who is more able to see life as it is rather than as it ought to be.

After causing billions in damage to validate their cause, it's upsetting that many of their targets were innocent of the "villainy" that they supposed. Regardless of anyone's stance on the eco-arguments in question, the ELF failed miserably to do the proper research to qualify their end results. Activism is not a bad thing, but the lengths at which the ELF went to prove their point were purely out of ignorance; hence, foolish and unnecessary.

I applaud the efforts of the film-makers in keeping an objective stance; the DVD extras are plentiful and intriguing. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Some people have called this film deplorable because it is "apologetic" by attempting to "humanize" the "terrorists." But it isn't that the movie attempts to "humanize" Daniel McGowan et al. When you listen to him, you find that he is simply a human being, period.

It's easy to see a sensationalist news segment and dismiss the E.L.F. members as a bunch of delusional hippy radicals. It's easy to put them in a less-than-human mental category by thinking of them as "terrorists." It's much harder to see them as exactly like you and me. No different. That's why this movie is so uncomfortable, and that's why this movie is so important.

P.S. - If you appreciated this movie, you would almost certainly appreciate another one in the POV series about "domestic terrorists" called Better This World.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Just stumbled across this documentary - I was afraid it might just be a mouthpiece for members of ELF to give their side of the story but really it shows how complicated these types of situations are. By the end the central question seems to be whether members of ELF can be classified as "terrorists" for the destructive actions (arson, mostly) that they have taken. What I appreciated was that this film doesn't attempt to answer that question but really lets you see opinions both from the people who performed the acts (and are now being charged) and the people who had the acts performed to their property. Letting the audience look at both sides really helps show how complicated this is and how sometimes people can think they're doing "the right thing" but actually be misguided (at one point they show that ELF members destroyed a location that was not actually doing the types of testing they were led to believe they were doing). Some reviews here have said this doc is supporting ELF, but I would argue that this doc just tells the incredible story of what they did and what the consequences were. Really interesting and captivating film. The special features are good too, especially a short update that gives information on where various people who were interviewed are two years after the film was made.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and Shocking
This documentary is a must see! It leaves you thinking, trying to grasp your own understanding of what is right and wrong. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Rosie Sweetman
4.0 out of 5 stars Great film
It is eye opening and really provides a great argument. Although I think it is a little bias and does not give a fair chance to the opposing side.
Published 7 months ago by Jayson Baughan
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
I always wondered what it was like inside these groups. I grew up close to where these fires were happening so I found it interesting to get a closer look at the organization.
Published 8 months ago by gobigevents
3.0 out of 5 stars Left Feeling Hopeless, Maybe That's What They Intended
Reflecting on this film, I feel ambivalent, which is perhaps what the writers and producers want you to feel. Read more
Published 9 months ago by stefani
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Documentary
This really is a well done and beautifully presented documentary even if (in the end) it is difficult to feel sorry for the poor soul at its center. Read more
Published 13 months ago by TrailsEndWild
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye opener
Makes you realize who the real terrorists are today are not those struggling to stop global ecocide but the police which are using violence torward non-violent protests. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Derek
5.0 out of 5 stars Tackles the topic very well
This shows the topic from an objective view. Lets you see the criminal aspect and the personal struggle of the individuals involved in the activities. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Infectious
3.0 out of 5 stars Implicitly apologetic
To give this documentary credit, it doesn't look and sound like something M. Moore could have made. Yet it is not quite impartial as it wants to come across. Read more
Published 16 months ago by oortcloud
4.0 out of 5 stars ELF...
This documentary is about how Earth Liberation Front was formed, did and how they were arrested and convicted by the US government. Read more
Published 17 months ago by NYFB
5.0 out of 5 stars Please watch
I think everyone needs to watch this movie. If you are an activist, you will connect with Daniel on a whole new level. Read more
Published 20 months ago by TAS_XVX
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