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Saturday, July 16, 2011

NZIFF: If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front

NZIFF: If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Touching doco following the rise and fall of 'eco terrorists' ELF (Earth Liberation Front) as one of the founding members, Daniel McGowan faces life imprisonment for terrorism.

The anarchist anti-globalization movement that interacted with environmentalism that swept the North Eastern coast of America in the 1990's is a powerful example of splinter cell activism that becomes almost impossible for the Police to detect. The most fascinating part of the doco is how their radicalism manifested after extreme brutality enacted by the Police. The Police establish a threat threshold against the protesters that is grossly over the top and that brutality impacts those whom are hurt by it to step up political action to a much higher level.

The manner in which Police took to protesters whom had tied themselves to trees by spray pepper spray directly into their held open eyelids makes for viewing so emotional you can understand the immediate recruitment potential the Police's own actions caused.

I compare these mistakes with the current ones being played out in NZ right now with Police hassling Union activists and Mana Party members for Rugby World Cup protests.

Daniel McGowan's life on home detention awaiting trial for the arson's he and his fellow ELF members caused is a chance to reflect to camera on the rationale's behind the arson's and his justification of it as a tactic. Post 9/11 any terrorism action is now deemed a horror beyond the norm and watching McGowan grapple with the enormity of his actions alongside his passion for the environment within the new cultural paradigm of terrorism raises interesting questions about our responsibilities as citizens and how far we are prepared to go for those responsibilities.

It is a doco that is far sadder than you would expect as McGowan faces a plea bargain that will still see him go away for 8 years in a special super max prison for Terrorists where he gets one 15 minute behind glass visit per month.

After over 300 actions and not one fatality, ELF posed a serious alternative to working within the system, their downfall was faulty information about two sites they arsoned that didn't turn out to be the justified attack they had claimed. Without righteous grievance, the group lost it's moral authority and ceased co-ordinated attacks within North America.

How protest in the 21st Century will evolve isn't certain, but if brutal tactics by Police are all the State bothers to use, the cultural backlash their brutal tactics cause are far more damaging.

A moving doco that challenges citizen apathy.

3 stars



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