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 thriller, 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.
Winner of the US Documentary Editing Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front is reportedly slated for broadcast later this year on PBS’ POV series.
The Hollywood Reporter gave it a positive review. Thanks to Rising Tide North America for the sharing this information.
Film synopsis (no trailer available) from the film’s official website:
About the Author: ISE