Tuesday, November 10, 2015

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

Directors: Marshall Curry, Samm Cullman

Writers: Matthew Hamachek, Marshall Curry

Composer: James Baxter

Starring: Daniel McGowan, Lisa McGowan, 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 Peifer

More info: IMDb

Plot: A rare behind-the-curtain look at the Earth Liberation Front, the radical environmental group that the FBI calls America's 'number one domestic terrorist threat.'

My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again? No, but I'm not opposed to seeing it again.

Documentaries are such a different breed of filmmaking that I've often wondered how difficult it is to make one without telegraphing your (the filmmaker) point of view and stay unbiased.  One of the best examples is JESUS CAMP (2006).  If you agree with the subject then the film strengthens your position and the same applies to if you completely disagree.  Curry & Cullman present their subjects in a completely different way (JC simply showed you footage of the goings on at the camp with the participants (all religious zealots) telling us what they think.  I don't recall hearing a dissenting opinion.  Anyway, TREE presents people on both sides of the issue as well as some who are on the fence.  It's an interesting look at environmental terrorism, in that I learned more about a subject than I only knew from headlines in the 90s, but it's not a history lesson or anything far-reaching like that.  It focuses on the ELF (Earth Liberation Front) and the few people who caused massive financial damage in a short period of time by destroying private property in the name of protecting the environment.  They're extreme tree huggers, if you will, and they're too passionate about it.  Investigators spent three years trying to solve the crimes and then they finally caught a break which led to a big windfall. It's a very good picture and a recommendation, regardless of which side of the issue you're on.  The Oscilloscope DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print with lots of great extras.  Besides the obligatory trailers for more of their films (five here, including one for this picture), you get a commentary track, deleted scenes (five, totaling about eight minutes), three extended interviews (seven minutes), an eight minute follow-up on where the subjects of the film are as of the DVD release in 2011) which is a great little piece and a post-screening Q&A with the directors (nine minutes).

I need to say that I'm really enjoying going through (what will eventually be) every film in the Oscilloscope's catalog.  Their DVD releases have quality extras and DVD menus.  I bring this up because it shows this company cares about their product and that means a lot.  Taste is subjective, so I'm not going to like everything they release, but It's nice expose yourself to something you might not otherwise.  It's just like one of my other projects (which I need to get back onto) where I'm determined to watch every single film on trailer compilations.  By doing so I'm seeing films that I'd probably never see which brings the bad as well as the good.  And there's something satisfying by going into a movie blind, knowing nothing about it. It's something I typically do with projects like this and it's quite rewarding.

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