Change of Heart and Tactics
Curry and Cullman use dramatic archival footage not only of the fires caused by ELF, but also of the shocking misconduct of Eugene, Oregon police when they broke up a peaceful demonstration staged by citizens protesting the cutting down of a landmark tree. The police used clubs, tear gas and pepper spray to disband the demonstrators, including those who had positioned themselves in the branches of the tree that was to be cut down. The police behavior is horrendous, and the footage might well serve as a primer of how authorities should NOT deal with civil disobedience.
Curry and Cullman show that McGowan, although he admits to extreme acts of arson, is a kind of an everyman -- someone who wishes to do well and improve society, becomes disenchanted, disenfranchized and turns to the use of distructive tactics instead of peaceful ones to effect change.
One of the most interesting aspects of McGowan's character is his refusal to testify against other former ELF members, although they're testifying against him in order to lighten their own punishments. McGowan faces life in jail, and betrayal by former ELF comrads, but he remains true to his personal ideals. This character trait makes him quite sympathetic, and the debate around his situation becomes all the more serious.
More Than McGowan
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- Title: If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
- Directors: Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman
- Release Date: June 22, 2011
- Running Time: 85 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: Oscilloscope Pictures
- Official Website