“When you're screaming at the top of your lungs and no one hears you, what are you supposed to do?”
Daniel McGowan's question comes out more like a plea in the trailer for If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front, a new documentary from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Marshall Curry which opens this week in New York at the IFC Center. The documentary tackles tough questions like the fine line between activist and terrorist and how members of the Earth Liberation Front like David McGowan are prosecuted in a post-9/11 America.
At first glance, environmental activism seems like an odd topic for director Marshall Curry. His previous films include Racing Dreams which looked at the world of competitive pre-teen go-kart racing and Street Fight which followed the heated mayoral race between the up-and-coming Cory Booker and four-term mayor Sharpe James. Street Fight earned Curry his first Oscar nomination in 2005 for Best Documentary Feature, and his films have won top honors at the Sundance, Tribeca, and Chicago film festivals.
Despite his varying subject matter, however, Curry's work is distinctly his own because he sees the humanity in all of his subjects. Street Fight was more than an election; it was a David and Goliath tale with a man trying to beat the odds and win for his city. Racing Dreams was about more than dreams of Nascar fame; it was a bittersweet coming-of-age story. Starting tonight, audiences can expect to see a similar thoughtfulness brought to the subject of environmental activism and domestic terrorism in If a Tree Falls at the IFC Center.