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Oscar Nominee/If A Tree Falls: A Story Of The Earth Liberation Front (2011)

January 24th, 2012 by Anne Richardson · 1 Comment · 2010's, Oregon as inspiration, Oregon film old definition, Oregon location (primary), Videos

Oregon has a film at the Oscars this year.

Documentarian Marshall Curry followed Daniel McGowan from Brooklyn, where he was a graduate student, to Eugene, where he was an environmental activist,  to Illinois, where he is serving time in the Communication Management Unit, aka a highly restrictive federal prison. McGowan is serving a 7 year sentence for two counts of arson and conspiracy, one in Glendale and one in Clatskanie.

If A Tree Falls: A Story Of The Earth Liberation Front first aired on the PBS documentary series P.O.V. It has been nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Documentary.

From The Gothamist’s interview with Curry.

There’s some footage that you included in If a Tree Falls from the Warner Creek blockade in the mid-90’s, where activists were attempting to stop logging in a national forest in Oregon. Their encampment looks exactly like Zuccotti Park—the tents, the signs, everything. And it’s destroyed by the police, just like the Zuccotti encampment was. In what ways are eco-terrorism and “economic inequality terrorism,” as the authorities might call it, similar, and in what ways are they different?

I think there are a lot of thematic similarities between what happened in the 90s, in the environmental movement, and what we see now with the Occupy movement. There there are things that I was seeing on television as the Occupy movement was being covered that seem to be almost lifted from the movie. Whether it’s scenes like the one you describe where folks were being evicted from an encampment where they were trying to keep logging trucks from getting into the forest, or whether it was the use of pepper spray by police to go after non-violent protestors.

We saw it in Zuccotti and it’s similar to the WTO protests and a number of other places in the 90s in the film. And what’s been interesting is when the film came out in the theaters this summer, it was a couple of months before the Occupy movement had started, and a lot of people kind of saw protest movements in the United States as a quaint historical event. There was no discussion of a current protest movement about to happen. And as soon as it happened it really seemed to follow the playbook, and I feel like the film could be a cautionary tale both for activists to consider the types of tactics that they’re engaging in, and also for law enforcement to think about how they’re reacting to activists because I think there are some responses to activism that radicalize people and other responses that bring people into the democratic argument.

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This is Curry’s second Academy Award nomination. His first was in 2005 for Street Fight, a profile of a mayoral race in Newark, NJ.

Curry was a Comparative Religion major at Swarthmore. Just to show you what it takes to become an Oscar nominated filmmaker.

If A Tree Falls is distributed by Oscilloscope Pictures, which also distributes Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy and Howl.

I hereby claim If A Tree Falls: A Story Of The Earth Liberation Front as an Oregon film, on the basis of location shooting, and on the basis of the inspiration provided by Oregon forests, which impelled McGowan to take the journey Curry documented.


If A Tree Falls is an Oregon film by virtue of subject matter and location.

For Oscar nominated films which have Oregon directors and/or are based on work by Oregon authors: See this Handy Guide

For Oscar nominated animation by Oregon artists, including three Oscar winning Oregonians: See this Handy Guide

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