07-09-2011, 09:18 AM
When Eco-Terrorists Attack
| When Eco-Terrorists Attack |
The ELF lied, buildings died.
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 can’t 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 doesn‘t 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 sister’s food cans so he could recycle the paper. The fact that she then couldn’t tell what was in each can didn’t cross his mind.
But it’s not really all about the environment. The ELF is anti-capitalist to its core.
Curry soberly recalls the ELF’s 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. There’s 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 (bastard should ROT there a very long time) based on post-9/11 rules. Tree dutifully makes the case that McGowan doesn’t 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 it’s hard to square those concerns with the ELF’s actions.
A lack of diverse voices hurts Tree’s 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 don’t agree with your worldview. It’s far more valuable for illuminating the folks who take such actions.
Christian Toto is a freelance writer for The Washington Times. His work has appeared in People magazine, MovieMaker Magazine, The Denver Post, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and boxofficemagazine.com. He also contributes movie radio commentary to three stations as well as the nationally syndicated Dennis Miller Show and runs the blog What Would Toto Watch?
[ Reply w/Quote ]