Real Talkies

Real Talkies

Every cut is a lie. It’s never that way. Those two shots were never next to each other in time that way. But you’re telling a lie in order to tell the truth. –Wolf Koenig.

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IF A TREE FALLS – When you are screaming at the top of your voice and no one is listening what do you do?

June 21, 2011 , , , ,

remarkable story of the rise and fall of this Earth Liberation Front (ELF) cell, by focusing on the transformation and radicalization of one of its members.

In December 2005, Daniel McGowan was arrested by Federal agents in a nationwide sweep of radical environmentalists involved with the Earth Liberation Front– a group the FBI has called America’s “number one domestic terrorism threat.”

MARSHALL CURRY (Director): Well, the story sort of just dropped in my lap, actually. My wife runs a domestic violence organization in Brooklyn and came home from work one day and told me that four federal agents had walked into her office that afternoon and arrested one of her employees, this guy Daniel McGowan. And he was not at all what comes to my mind when I think of somebody who would be facing life in prison for domestic terrorism, as the government called it. And for me as a filmmaker, when reality clashes with a stereotype that maybe I have, that’s interesting. And so, you know, Daniel, he doesn’t look like a terrorist, doesn’t talk like a terrorist. He grew up in Rockaway, Queens. His dad’s a New York cop. He was a business major in college. And so, I just thought, how could this have happened? How could this guy have been involved in these arsons, and how could he be facing life in prison for them? And so, Sam Cullman, who’s the cinematographer and co-director on the project, and I just said, “Let’s try to figure it out.” Source:

With the arrest of Daniel and thirteen others, the government had cracked what was probably the largest ELF cell in America and brought down the group responsible for the very first ELF arsons in this country. Over the next five years the filmmakers spent time with Daniel from the time he was arrested to when he went to prison and when he was on house arrest.

Drawing from archival footage  and intimate interviews with ELF members, and with the prosecutor and detective who were chasing them, IF A TREE FALLS explores the tumultuous period from 1995 until early 2001 when environmentalists were clashing with timber companies and law enforcement, and the word “terrorism” had not yet been altered by 9/11.


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