“It’s hideous to be called a terrorist,” says Daniel McGowan. “But here I am, facing life, plus 335 years.” Sitting in his kitchen with a lowjack on his ankle and awaiting trial in 2006, McGowan looks back on the events that brought him to this place. As he explains in If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, he’s never considered himself a terrorist, though of course he’s seen the reports on television and in newspapers concerning his work with the Environmental Liberation Front (ELF). “People need to question this new buzzword,” he suggests, “It’s a new bogeyman word.” Screening on 15 December as part of Stranger Than Fiction’s Pre-Winter Season Special, Marshall Curry’s documentary is remarkable for its access to McGowan and its examination of so many aspects of the case. Recently named to the short list for a Best Documentary Oscar, the film doesn’t judge so much as it considers—actions and motives, ambitions and mistakes. As Curry says, “I think complexity is more interesting, and from the beginning I wanted to present people’s best arguments and let those smack into each other, rather than their worst arguments.”
See PopMatters’ review.