If A Tree Falls

Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman

In this year of the Arab Spring and the rise of protests in the US, the stylistically straightforward If A Tree Falls, ultimately propels the film into a call for action and change.

It was one week before the American public television premiere of Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman’s If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front that a brief item appeared on the website Indiewire, an info source from the world of non-Hollywood filmmaking: Kelly Reichardt (the writer and director behind the critically acclaimed Old Joy and Wendy and Lucy) has begun pre-production on a fiction film partially inspired by Curry and Cullman’s new documentary. The actor Peter Saarsgard (Boys Don’t Cry) has immediately signed up to play an environmentalist turned eco-terrorist who decides to blow up a dam after a brutal police attack in Oregon.


“I saw a documentary called If A Tree Falls in which a group of environmentalists in Portland are trying to save centuries old trees, and the police act with such brutality that these youths decide to do more than protect a tree,” says Sarsgaard. “I never want to do this, but I can understand how someone can want to do that. We have a gun pointed to our planet.” The trailer for If A Tree Falls, the feature-length chronicle of the radical Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a group labelled by the FBI as America’s ‘number one domestic terror threat’, is equally incendiary. The sound of a ticking time bomb and the urgent voices of newscasters give way to quick flash cut images of ranger stations and ski lodges ablaze, mug shots of long-haired radicals, lines of exploding SUVs, masked anarchists kicking in windows, fists raised, set against marching, charging jack-booted cops. It might not seem typical fare for PBS, the network now setting all its publicity weight behind Ken Burns’ latest mini-series Prohibition.

«carried out dozens of fire bombings against lumber companies, genetic labs and slaughterhouses»

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