If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
USA / 2011 / 85’
Directors: Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman
The documentary tells a timely story of political action and environmental beliefs at loggerheads. This reconstruction of the recent history and unraveling of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) is a fascinating exploration of a modern revolutionary movement and its efficacy. Fusing fervent concerns about ecological imbalance and capitalism run amok, ELF members and sleeper cells employed economic sabotage by destroying facilities involved in deforestation to remove the profit potential from companies wreaking environmental destruction. Focusing on Oregon-based activist Daniel McGowan, Curry relates the tale of a mild-mannered, middle-class citizen driven to extremes and brought to trial on charges of terrorism for his participation in ELF-related arson plots. Detailing activists’ past disillusionment with public protest – and the police brutality and inertia that often followed – the film poses difficult questions about the possibility of effecting change from either within or without the system and examines the changed stakes for revolutionaries today in a world fixated on branding all dissenters as terrorists.