Movie Review: If a Tree Falls

This exceptional documentary discusses the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a group that has been slandered by the US government as terrorists. They have used arson as a tool to fight back against activities and corporations that harm the environment, while being extremely careful to avoid killing or injuring anyone. In general, my attitude toward the ELF is similar to my analysis of the Weather Underground and other armed revolutionary groups of the West in the 1970s – their actions are legitimate and morally right, but strategically wrong.

But that’s an aside. The movie brings, amazingly, nuance to its subject. Focusing on the upcoming trial of Daniel McGowan, it includes interviews with his fiancée, his family, former ELF comrades, law enforcement, and the federal prosecutor of his case. The movie does an impressive job of remaining neutral and letting all parties speak for themselves, allowing us to see the motivations and humanity of all involved.

The director spoke after the screening and pointed out that they have blurbs from both the ELF and the prosecutor saying that they think the movie is important and that people should watch it, a testament to its even-handedness.

I recommend anyone interested in environmentalism or radical movements watch this movie.

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