Skip to comments.When Eco-Terrorists Attack (Movie review)
Posted on 07/09/2011 9:10:17 AM PDT by jazusamo
Video: If A Tree Falls trailer 2:10 minutes
If a Tree Falls wants audiences to rally behind Daniel McGowan, a soft-spoken fellow facing life in prison for crimes committed with the Earth Liberation Front.
What director Marshall Curry cant do is make McGowan worth our sympathy. The eco-terrorist is immature, arrogant, and unable to take full responsibility for his actions.
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front is gripping all the same, a fascinating peek into what passes for the soul of the eco-terrorist movement.
McGowan is as extreme an environmentalist as one could imagine even if he doesnt rant and rave like a panelist on MSNBC. We see him soaping up a plastic bag in order to re-use it and hear about the time he took off all the labels on his sisters food cans so he could recycle the paper. The fact that she then couldnt tell what was in each can didnt cross his mind.
Hes a portrait of arrested development, a man who grooved on the vibe of the environmental movement as well as its street cred. We dont snitch on each other, man, so dont ask us, he says.
Except plenty of his old pals did just that.
McGowans radicalism began when he met a woman collecting signatures for an environmental cause. From there he watched a video of trees being cut and smoke belching out into the beautiful blue sky.
He was hooked.
McGowans story likely echoed some of his fellow ELF members. But theres no attempt to dig deeper into their psychology. Most environmentalists wouldnt burn down a logging plant or put the lives of strangers at risk.
The reasons for the ELFs violent nature will seem inflated to any clear-thinking viewer. The environmental protestors bemoaned the slow pace of progress for their cause. And, when they hurled stones at police during some protest, the police hit back.
Change takes time. It also involves affecting the hearts and minds of enough people to rally to your side. But the ELF members were unable to do that in large enough numbers.
Curry clearly has a soft spot for these eco-hooligans. If a Tree Falls stacks the talking head deck squarely on their side. Only late in the film do we hear from law enforcement officials who helped round up McGowan and his co-horts with the kind of crime solving panache that would make a Law & Order highlight reel.
The film employs a number of devices to humanize McGowan. We get a close-up of the bracelet which prevents him from leaving his home following his arrest, see grainy film of him as a young boy, and meet his girlfriend, a woman willing to stand by her man no matter what.
McGowan, often seen wearing a T-shirt calling President George W. Bush an international terrorist, doesnt like it when he gets labeled a terrorist.
No one got hurt, no one got injured, he whines. And while thats true, could his buddies ensure that before the fact? Fires spread. Firefighters die in the line of duty. People show up in places where theyre not supposed to be all the time.
Any one of their actions could have led to innocents being killed. And what about the people whose livelihoods rested on the buildings he burned? One ELF arson target was destroyed over erroneous information.
ELF lied, buildings died.
A fascinating moment arrives mid film during one of the few interviews of the victims of the ELF crimes. A logger patiently describes how his industry replaces the trees cut with new ones. Otherwise, the industry wouldnt be self-sustaining.
We re-grow these trees .Its the law, the man says, a moment of sanity in a film teeming with cloaked figures boasting poorly assembled ideas.
But its not really all about the environment. The ELF is anti-capitalist to its core.
Curry soberly recalls the ELFs rise, both in its early protests and the events which helped radicalize it, like when the Forest Service tore down a protest wall ELF members had erected. The group responded by burning a pair of ranger stations to the ground. One of the stations incurred $5.3 million in damages. Theres certainly an argument to be made against lumping McGowan and his co-horts in with the likes of al-Qaeda. McGowan faced a lifetime in prison based on post-9/11 rules. Tree dutifully makes the case that McGowan doesnt deserve to share a cell with shoe bombers.
And anyone who ever spent hours protesting with nothing to show for it beyond blistered feet will understand the frustration at how slow actual change can happen. But its hard to square those concerns with the ELFs actions.
A lack of diverse voices hurts Trees otherwise gripping narrative. Where are the more moderate environmentalists? Does ELF have some solid arguments? Was Curry afraid to find out the answers?
Instead, we hear more from McGowan, who at one point fondly recalls one of his first violent acts, smashing stores that dared to be a part of the capitalist system.
It felt good to take out my rage on these corporate windows, he says.
If a Tree Falls amounts to a feature-length rationale for burning down places that dont agree with your worldview. Its far more valuable for illuminating the folks who take such actions.
Daniel McGowan aka "Sorrell" Age: 32
Bio: Grew up in Queens, NY; earned degree in business administration and Asian studies from University of Buffalo in 1996. Participated in 1999 WTO protests in Seattle. Lived in Eugene from March 2000-January 2002; was short-term editor for Earth First! Journal, contributor to Green Anarchy magazine, volunteer for Shamrock House Infoshop and campaigner to support Jeff "Free" Luers. Briefly dated defendant Savoie; washed dishes at Morning Glory restaurant. Returned to New York in 2002, studied acupuncture, organized protests against the Republican National Convention and worked for WomensLaw.org. Arrested in New York City in December 2005; married in May 2006.
Legal status: Pleaded guilty to two 2001 arsons on Nov. 9, 2006. Recommended sentence: eight years
The Family members
I am not surprised the media trys to make him a darling....
Look how they portray Che.
The Animal Liberation Front even have a medical doctor (Jerry Vlasak MD) in the Los Angeles area as their spokesperson who has advocated physical violence as a means of furthering their agenda.
Eco-Terrorists use the Envirnoment as a clever—they think—cover for terrorism against freedom.
Like progressives are really against progress.
Notice how over the last 4-5 years, The vandalism has stopped.
They all work for the Government now.
The California Air Resources Board is infested with these jerks.
There’s no doubt that a fair number of the ELF/ALF sympathizers if not actual members have gone to work for many government agencies both state and federal.
I believe a big reason for the absence of eco-terrorist vandalism is the prosecution and sentencing in federal court of most of The Family members in 2007 and 2008.
There is one (Solondz) just taken into custody after serving a prison sentence in China for illegal drugs and two or three more of their number that are still fugitives.
2 million die every year because of the environmentalists. And if you ask them to reconsider they will not.
They don't just put people at risk, they want them dead in the name of population control.
That's the same Bullstalin that the Weather Underground try to throw.
The Weather Underground plotted to bomb a dance at an armory. And Bill Ayers still feels he didn't do enough bombings.
Yes, I remember the tree spiking well due to living in Oregon. There were loggers and mill workers badly injured by the animals calling themselves environmentalists, it wasn’t any different than them setting booby trap bombs.
The problem with both groups is that their ideology is unsound, and their tactics dangerous to life and property.
They are against Capitalism and progress.
Thanks for the ping Jaz.
Wonder who supports these imbeciles while they plan their deeds. Mommy and Daddy likely.
Source, please? I'll use it, if I can prove it!
As a matter of fact several of The Family members who wound up in a federal slammer were from well to do families who were supporting them.
There were also several that were very well off themselves, I believe through inheritances. Many were going to Evergreen State College in WA when introduced into the group. Evergreen is one of if not the most liberal communist colleges in the country.
Oh yes, they come from upper class homes. And they’re ALL lily white. Imagine the criticism of a pro-life abortion group that thad been bombing clinics. The first thing they’d mention is how they’re all angry white people.
That figures Jaz.
I’m in New Mexico till the end of August, surrounded by federal land and hippies. I am having fun with the hippies here. Right now I have in a T-shirt that reads .... “Celebrate Diversity (and a pic of at least 20 different kinds of pistols (LOL).
Lots of artists here. Never sold anything or made a living, but they all consider themselves artists. Lots of galleries with nobody to buy the stuff. I figure that’s Mom and Dad leaving these hippies in their 50s and 60s trust funds/inheritances.
Hmmm. I wonder how the folks pushing sympathy for this man would view a movie made about a ‘pro-life’ terrorist who went around bombing abortion clinics? /S
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