Thursday, June 16, 2011

If a Tree falls

This is the documentary I was talking about yesterday this is a review I am reprinting it here;

"Marshall Curry's documentary, which won an editing award, centers on activist members of the Earth Liberation Front categorized as "domestic terrorists" by the FBI.

PARK CITY -- With Americans' concerns about joblessness and a sputtering economy far ahead of worries about the environment, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Marshall Curry finds new relevance in these issues by profiling the development of radical environmentalism through the lens of domestic terrorism.

Winner of the Documentary Editing Award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front is slated for broadcast later this year on PBS' POV series and will remain an evergreen title in educational settings as well. Select theatrical dates in targeted markets could also prove fruitful.

RELATED: Sundance Announces 2011 Festival Award Winners

Curry traces the origins of the loosely affiliated Earth Liberation Front (ELF) to Eugene, Ore., in the 1990s. As anti-logging activists focusing on the region's extensive public forests became increasingly frustrated with the slow pace of policy reform in the Pacific Northwest, some turned to "direct action" techniques rooted in the nonviolent tactics of previous social-change movements.

For some activists, even the more extreme forms of protest advocated by groups like Earth First! were not aggressive enough to confront the onslaught of logging. In 1996, Eugene resident Jake Ferguson and several accomplices burned down two vacant U.S. Forest Service ranger stations in ELF's first targeted arson.

Drawn to ELF's no-compromise tactics, Daniel McGowan began assisting with the Eugene group's arson planning and execution. Along with unprecedented access to former ELF members and law enforcement investigators, Curry's in-depth interviews with McGowan help frame the context for examining ELF's philosophy and strategies.

McGowan was a transplant from the New York area, where he grew up in a middle-class family and studied business in college. After relocating to Eugene, he became more deeply involved in environmental issues, motivated by his sense of outrage and search for justice. At the same time, direct-action protests were escalating nationwide as law enforcement response became more violent, sometimes involving intensive use of tear gas, pepper spray, water cannons and even rubber bullets to disperse demonstrations and arrest protestors.

McGowan's first ELF assignment involved assisting as a lookout while Ferguson and other ELF members burned down an Oregon timber plant. "I didn't have a problem with what I was doing" at the time, McGowan acknowledges in an interview. ELF adopted a variety of clandestine techniques to avoid exposure, operating as autonomous cells without any central leadership or coordination. Other ELF arson targets included a horse slaughtering plant, an SUV dealership and a $12 million Vail, Colo., ski lodge, which represented ELF's most visible act of "economic sabotage."

As ELF actions escalated, law enforcement agencies stepped up their activity as well, with the FBI categorizing the activists as "domestic terrorists" under Bush-era legislation, and the investigation become the largest domestic terrorism case in the U.S., spearheaded by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirk Engdall.

After burning down an Oregon tree farm, McGowan discovered that ELF had been misinformed about the target. Another fire set at the University of Washington got out of control, destroying a large amount of property, and McGowan began re-evaluating his involvement with the group, eventually withdrawing from ELF and moving back to New York. But federal agents continued to work the cases he'd been involved with, as well as other fires subsequently set by ELF.

Once they'd compiled charges against Jake Ferguson, investigators convinced him to help incriminate other current and former ELF members. Four years after leaving the group, the FBI arrested McGowan after Ferguson caught him admitting to the Oregon arsons on a surveillance tape. McGowan's sister bailed him out, and he was put on house arrest for seven months as the feds prepared their case for trial, after McGowan admitted his involvement in two ELF arsons, for which he faced life in prison under anti-terrorism statutes.

Interviews with McGowan, who's rather shy and still seems a bit bewildered by his actions and the charges against him, form the backbone of the documentary, supported by location footage, law enforcement video, animated sequences re-creating some of the ELF actions and additional interviews with McGowan's former acquaintances, ELF accomplices and law enforcement representatives.

Curry and co-editor Matthew Hamachek assemble the wide-ranging material into an informative, compelling story line, although details about McGowan's upbringing and early years in the environmental movement slow the narrative down and some of the footage of McGowan puttering around his sister's apartment proves too mundane to hold much interest.

In the film's final scenes, McGowan agrees to plead guilty to federal charges, including domestic terrorism, and accepts a reduced sentence of seven years in federal prison. (Ferguson was never charged with any of his alleged crimes.) Since ELF's actions have never targeted individuals or injured anyone, If a Tree Falls implicitly questions whether intentional property destruction should qualify as domestic terrorism, even as it critically reassess the future of the American environmental movement."

Venue: Sundance Film Festival, U.S. Documentary Competition
Production companies: Marshall Curry Productions and the Independent Television Service
Director: Marshall Curry
Screenwriters: Matthew Hamachek, Marshall Curry
Producer: Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman
Executive producers: Stephen Bannatyne, Marcia Carver, Sally Jo Fifer, Simon Kilmurry, Fraser
Director of photography: Sam Cullman
Music: James Baxter, The National
Editors: Matthew Hamachek, Marshall Curry
Sales: Marshall Curry Prods.
No rating, 85 minutes

Monday, June 13, 2011


What does it mean to be free in the land of internet with Big Brother becoming a reality here in America? The patriot act, wire tapping, extended rights to open mail and go through garbage, all to protect us AND to control us. Scary stuff, I am looking forward to the documentary about the domestic warrior who fights big corporation that do major damage to our planet. The group this particular fellow works with is Earth First. I am starting to think it is important to have a "Mother Earth Dow Jones" so we can keep track of her and the things we do to this planet called "home". What the impact of our inertia toward change and its consequences. Is it a crime if it prevents corporations from deforestation? Do we punish the young, the men and women at our peril? These saints who seem motivated to protect Earth from us?So far we get a D grade as far as being trust worthy and self responsible or worse in our trusting Government to protect her, this is our Mother Earth. So why are we punishing the children, the people who are resisting the damage? Fracking, which is spoiling our water tables every in America is frightening and if I see one more commercial with a pleasant looking man or woman espousing the virtues if natural gas as if it is something benign in our capturing of it. The sweet textured voice lulling us consumers to sleep. It isn't true we cannot be without oil we can look south to Brazil. We can get off the pipe. It may be criminal to set property on fire that doesn't belong to us and we may have to uphold laws but where are we that those same laws shelter the same actions that would otherwise on the surface be considered crimes? Why is it that the people who should be indicted are not (Bush Cheney Rumsfeld Rice, Bernanke, Paulson, etc...) and the man who is being indicted for something (John Edwards) no one really thinks is a crime yet the case will be thrown out and we are distracted by the move to indict. Meanwhile I keep asking who are they really going after with this campaign spending sleuthing? Palin? Its creepy and off point, I don't know if the people who break laws to protect endangered species or the Oceans of the world should be tried under the same rules we should have an exemption for the Earth First Warriors who are fighting for us, not against us. Us being people who want clean air ,water and drinking water, healthy top soil or just top soil. I want pesticide use to be mandated and made to be less harmful. I want industrialized agriculture to be broken up. I want it to be illegal for one gigantic company to control whole markets. I want Mansanto to be dis-banded and made to pay high fines for the terror they have wrought on the small farmer and the planet and the consumer. It's alright to relearn new modalities and ways to exist that respects Earth. This is what I want for Christmas...I know another corporate construct designed to promote consumption. Lets free the people who fight the good fight, not imprison them have them educate us share their fears and their beliefs, teach us.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


In my rush to grow up I missed a lot of steps and now in my adulthood I realize those missed steps are vital. So now it is my job to retake some of those steps or better create these steps anew. I never graduated from anything and so next week I get to don a cap and gown and celebrate a graduation of sorts. Sure it is the GED but to someone who missed the step of finishing high school it is a very important step for me to take. I have always diminished pomp and circumstance because it was painful to me. When I was younger I lacked witnesses, so simple things were a source of pain. I know a lot of us had similar issues growing up of working mothers and absent fathers but nonetheless it was a way to avoid the agony of having no one to celebrate my little accomplishments. So I grew up dismissing them as lame only now I realize it is another facet of our growth that we need. We need to develop the emotional muscle of self celebration. It is funny to put it that way and maybe silly to think of our emotions as muscles that need development but they do. It is like learning to allow someone to love us deeply; it’s not natural to some of us it feels like fire burning our skin or worse like being skinless. Love is tricky too because REAL love doesn’t act like media love and certainly never looks like media love. So we are a jumble, a confused bunch growing up. Taking steps are important they teach us many things vital to enjoyment, vital to respecting the processes that make up our lives. In my haste to skip a few I missed out on some soft, quiet yet hugely important moments that make up the healthy psyche of a young woman. As a not so young woman now I am taking those steps for the first time completely aware and awake, there’s sure to be a tear here and there from me because that is also what we miss when we skip steps; happy tears of real love.