When A Protester Becomes A Hero
Tim DeChristopher, a 27 year old college student, was participating in environmentalists' protests against the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) auction of oil and gas rights in Southern Utah. The auction administrators mistook him for a potential bidder, gave him a bid paddle -- number 70, which made him Bidder 70 -- and invited to take a seat.
As the auction progressed, Bidder 70 -- i.e. Tim DeChristopher -- began raising his paddle and outbidding others for the rights to drill for oil and gas on pristine and beautiful Southern Utah wilderness.
When the auction was over, Tim DeChristopher had winning bids to twelve parcels of land in the vicinity of designated national treasures including Moab and Canyonlands.
Of course, Tim DeChristopher had neither the intention to nor the means to pay for his 'purchases.' Nor did he plan to extract oil and gas from the land.
In Tim DeChristopher's raised hand, paddle number 70 completely disrupted the BLM's auction and sales plan, and assured that the oil and gas would stay in the ground -- at least for the immediate future and until the BLM set up another auction or decided to cease and desist.
Environmentalists saw Tim DeChristopher as a hero, but he was hauled off to jail for disrupting the auction, and subsequently m indicted and brought to trial. And sentenced to two years in federal prison.
Where is the Justice?
The State of Utah and the its prosecutors seemed intent on making an example of Tim DeChristopher, although he was supported throughout the trial by legions of environmentalists, including Utah resident Robert Redford, who appears in the film, speaking in defense of Tim DeChristopher. We also find out that the BLM's auction of oil and gas rights was found to be illegal. Still, the prosecution pressed forward, all the while claiming that Tim DeChristopher's actions were malicious and planned. Tim DeChristopher, on the other hand, points out that he was invited to be Bidder 70, and that he really began bidding on an impulse, prompted by seeing a women from his church group in tears while the auction progressed.
Telling DeChristopher's Story
DeChristopher's prosecution is really shocking, and this documentary about it is exceptionally good citizenship. Filmmakers Beth Gage and George Gage present a gripping personal story that reveals just how bizarre and twisted our justice system can be.
The filmmakers round out the story with photos and archival footage that establishes the scope of the original protest and why this Southern Utah land is so important to environmentalists. There are interviews with Tim DeChristopher's colleagues and fellow protesters from a group called Peaceful Uprising, with prominent environmentalists whose comments address the roots and depth of our environmental crisis, with Tim DeChristopher's lawyer and, even, the prosecution, making this a well-balanced documentary. But mostly it's Tim DeChristopher who shines in this film. He should be put on a pedestal or sent to the Senate, not incarcerated.
Tim DeChristopher is a true hero, and his story shows that one person who stands up for his beliefs can really make a difference. As a result of his actions, future generations will be able to enjoy the beautiful land in Southern Utah -- unless the BLM or another government agency finds another way to sell it off for exploitation and destruction.
The Bottom Line
Bidder 70 is a very well made documentary that presents you with a straight up and compelling story. The film has no gimmickry. It doesn't need it. The story is that good, and the filmmakers have understood and presented all of the elements necessary to make its message personal and affecting. This must see film will give you a better understanding of the environmental movement, and will change the way you think.
If You Like This Film, You May Also Like
- If A Tree Falls: A Story From The Earth Liberation Front
- The Cove
- The Eleventh Hour
- Winged Migration
- Earth Days
- An Inconvenient Truth
- Title: Bidder 70
- Directors: Beth Gage and George Gage
- Premiere Date: March 2012, Cleveland International Film Festival
- Running Time: 73 mins.
- Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
- Locations: Eugene and Seattle, Oregon, New York City and other US locations.
- Language: English
- Production Country: USA
- Distribution Company: First Run Features
- Official Website