In the past month or so I’ve watched two very intriguing documentaries about environmental activists who go to prison for their actions. Readers of this blog know I advocate for nonviolent social action, and I just want to highlight that again in the context of these two films.
The first is If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front (PBS, film website, Wikipedia, IMDB, DemocracyNow!) which follows the story of Daniel McGowan. As a member of the ELF, McGowan had participated in arson as a tactic for social and environmental change. The film simultaneously tells the ELF’s story and follows court proceedings against McGowan.
If a Tree Falls is compelling story-telling. It is a provocative look at the sociological, psychological, and political factors that radicalized the local environmental activist community. I appreciated that the filmmakers allowed the activists and the law enforcement personnel to be complex; they weren’t dumbed down to one-dimensional caricatures. These are complex issues with complex actors, and I value that this messiness was allowed to come through.
More recently, I watched Bidder 70, which looks at the actions of Tim DeChristopher relating to conservation and climate change (film website, organization, Facebook, IMBD, Peaceful Uprising). Rather than take a violent or destructive approach like McGowan, DeChristopher interfered with an auction of extraction rights by holding up his bidding number, 70.
I have a deep respect for people who find creative and meaningful ways to live our their values. I respect even more those who dedicate themselves to pursuing this integration of values and living in peaceful or nonviolent ways.
- Am I as committed to my values as these two young men are?
- To what degree have I integrated my values and actions? What holds me back from doing this more fully?
- What sacrifices am I willing to make to live what I believe and to promote my values?
- What role did community play in the lives of these two men? How did community influence them before, during and after the actions noted in these films?
- In the area of environmental activism, what is needed today? What issues, strategies and tactics are most important at this stage in world history?
Want to find more films that address some of these same themes? Check out the follow twelve films on protest and social action:
- Encounter Point (2006, documentary)
- Budrus (2009, documentary)
- 5 Broken Cameras (2011, documentary)
- The Singing Revolution (2006, documentary)
- This Is What Democracy Looks Like (2000, documentary)
- Pray the Devil Back to Hell (2008, documentary)
- Rage Against the Machine: Revolution in the Head and the Art of Protest (2010, documentary)
- 180 South (2010, documentary)
- A Force More Powerful (1999, documentary)
- The Edukators (2004, movie)
- Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2004, movie)
- Amazing Grace (2006, movie)