Environmental documentaries often present only one side of the struggle to preserve the planet and the resources it provides. Most do not even attempt to examine the other side of the story, that of those who, in the mind of the activism or environmentally conscious, are doing the destruction. Especially in a post 9/11 America, the definition of the word ‘terrorism’ has become a hot button issue and has been widely discussed and debated. In an article entitled ‘Eco-terrorism or Justified Resistance? Radical Environmentalism and the “War on Terror”’, Steve Vanderheiden states, “Radical environmental groups engaged in ecotage—or economic sabotage of inanimate objects thought to be complicit in environmental destruction—have been identified as the leading domestic terrorist threat in the post-9/11 “war on terror” (Vanderheiden 425)”. While to outsiders, the media, and government organizations have classified activists taking to destructive and radical means to protect the environment as a terrorist threat, the activist themselves feel that the true terrorism is being executed as destruction of the planet. While If a Tree Falls attempts to explore the issues of eco terrorism, environmentalism, and activism and present the information from an unbiased position, through editing and other formal elements it clearly, albeit subtly, aligns its philosophy to the side of the environmentalists it follows.
The film clearly advocates for a specific side of the issue and proceeds in educating the audience, similar to other early advocacy documentary films that were steeped in social issues, and often funded by specific organizations (Barnouw 90). Although the appearance of neutrality is there, upon further investigation it is clear that the filmmakers bias sides with Danny and the other extreme activists whose stories are integrated with the rest of the footage of the film. Using common and accepted tools of documentary film rhetoric and editing, several interviews and instances in the film are subtly working to direct the spectator’s views into alignment with the activists portrayed.
And a clever and impactful short on youtube- just for fun :)
Curry, Marshall, Dir. If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front. Dir. Marshall Curry." Film.
Miller, DeMond Shondell, Jason David Rivera, and Joel C. Yelin. "Civil Liberties: The Line Dividing Environmental Protest and Ecoterrorists." Journal for the Study of Radicalism 2.1 (2008): 109-123. Web. Feb 2011.