“…there are no sacred truths; all assumptions must be critically examined”.

Carl Sagan kind of rocks a little bit, don’t you think? I mean it’s nothing new, Socrates came up with that sort of thing sometime between 469 – 399 BC, and since the renaissance science has moved towards this exact idea as being the backbone policy. But if you have a a light gadget that shines moving stars across your wall, then turn off the lights, put on Carl Sagan’s voice, and just enjoy. I kid you not, gather some friends and lie on the floor. Life starts to make a little more sense, kind of like listening to Bob Brown after listening to Abbott.

Talking of, how about this link(?), which kind of ends in a let down…

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The other day we discussed truth in documentary, and in particular whether the genre can ever be completely truthful. For me, I don’t think there is such a thing as an absolute truth, and if there is I don’t think people can ever know that it is for certain. If there is nothing that can be determined as pure truth in real life, how can it be done on screen in the form of documentary? There is a difference, however, between not being able to show a complete truth and covering up truth to manipulate viewers. When there is an agenda that distorts the story that is when truth is compromised.

A while ago now, before we had our class on documentary, I got a copy of a documentary I had been wanting to see called, ‘If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front’ (2011). I approached the documentary skeptically, especially because I had found out about the documentary via a source that (who) is not opposed to expressing what would be considered extreme environmental views.

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And that is what the film is all about, extreme environmental views, but from the perspective of different people. We are shown the negative side of the people involved in the attacks from the E.L.F., as well as seeing what prompted these people. There was a balanced view here that I wasn’t expecting; the only opinion that the film slightly pushes is the harshness of the penalties for the convicted ex-members. This does seem like a pretty obvious conclusion to reach however.

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Not knowing any of the history of the Earth Liberation Front in America, I didn’t approach the film with a negative view on the organisation, as many who are more aware of them might. The film takes a lot of time explaining the background of the organisation and its members, this part may be said to bring audiences to take sides with the current and ex-E.L.F. members, but I felt it was done in quite an objective and matter of fact manner. Especially considering that the average American viewer would have experienced an onslaught of negative information about the E.L.F distributed by the press.

People from both sides of the story were extremely cautious about giving interviews to the film crew.

The activists didn’t trust us because they feared we were going to do what the media always did: sensationalize the story and brand them as terrorists.  And the law enforcement and arson victims worried that we were going to sand-bag them and edit the film out of context to make them look bad.”  – Marshall Curry (director, writer, producer editor)

Isn’t it funny that these people were already geared to believe that a documentary would manipulate and cover up the truth? Marshall Curry went on to say,

The film has been very well received by people on all sides of the story.  The former ELF press spokesman… said that the film is an honest exploration of complex issues, and he thinks that it will generate important conversations about those topics.  And the Federal Prosecutor who spent years working to put the ELF in prison has said the exact same thing.

Directors/Producers: Marshall Curry, Sam Cullman

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I’ll leave with a quote from the film, a part that particularly stuck with me. I think that most people who watch documentaries probably already have a strong, predetermined stance on things, we pick a documentary because the topic interests us. So how much is preaching to the converted, so to speak. This documentary was not like that, mostly because it’s pretty hard to get behind one side and say, “yes they are right”. This was a documentary that confused me, kept me thinking for a long time afterwards,  and made me assess my values and my position. Who’s to say who will be thought of as right or wrong 50, 100 years from now. The Earth Liberation Front are seen as extreme now, but will they be hailed as ahead of their time, as revolutionaries later down the track? Where does the truth, the correct path, lie?

The industry tends to call the environmentalists radical, the reality is that 95% of the standing native forests of the United States have been cut down. It’s not radical to try and save the last 5%, what’s radical is logging 95%. This is radical.” – Bill Barton, Native Forest Council

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