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

NR CC
4.3 out of 5 stars (36) IMDb 7.2/10

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. Using never-before-seen archival footage and intimate interviews, IF A TREE FALLS asks hard questions about environmentalism, activism, and the way we define terrorism.

Starring:
Daniel McGowan, Lisa McGowan
Runtime:
1 hour, 25 minutes

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Product Details

Genres Drama, Documentary
Director Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman
Starring Daniel McGowan, Lisa McGowan
Supporting actors Tim Lewis, Kirk Engdall, Jim Flynn, Jenny Synan, Susan Synan, Bill Barton, Leslie James Pickering, Greg Harvey, Chuck Tilby, Suzanne Savoie, Steve Swanson, Chuck Wert, Don Rice, Jake Ferguson, Dan McGowan, Lauren Regan, Stephen F. Peifer, Alberto Gonzales
Studio Oscilloscope Pictures
MPAA rating NR (Not Rated)
Captions and subtitles English Details
Purchase rights Stream instantly Details
Format Amazon Video (streaming online video)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: DVD
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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Reflecting on this film, I feel ambivalent, which is perhaps what the writers and producers want you to feel. Perhaps watching this one is not as enjoyable as other similar themed movies because you can't embrace the protagonists without a sense of moral conflict, or without feeling that their good intentions led them down a wrong path. I do believe this film is worth watching, for a few reasons. First, it is brought home to you again how ruthless our government is in attacking environmentalists. There is a scene in which the protesters have climbed trees to prevent them from being cut down, and they are attacked with pepper spray by the authorities, who deliberately rip their clothes to pepper spray their genitals. So, you are enraged seeing that. As a result of the feelings of anger that the film engenders watching the ceaseless and soulless rape of our environment and brutal treatment of those who want to defend it, and the appropriation of our government and its agents by corporate profits, as you begin the film, your sympathies tend to lie with the environmentalist protesters -- you too, are outraged. And seeing the actions of government agents, you too feel hopeless. It is in that emotional space of rage and hopelessness that you understand how this group of people felt when they began to make the changes that would lead them from protesting to arson. Led by the most angry of the bunch, they begin to do more than protest. And, I could not help but cheer when one of their acts of arson successfully shut down an American horse slaughter plant. They were always careful that no humans or animals were on the premises when they committed these arsons, with a goal of limiting it to property damage.Read more ›
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Format: DVD
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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Format: DVD
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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