When does an environmental activist become a terrorist? That’s the burning question at the core of this riveting documentary about Daniel McGowan, an Earth Liberation Front member who is serving a seven-year federal sentence for his role in a series of arsons. Though none of the carefully plotted fires claimed lives—just lumber company buildings, SUVs, and other structures—McGowan was prosecuted under federal anti-terrorism laws. This balanced, humanizing film tracks his case and reveals him to be thoughtful and principled, regretful but not entirely repentant—especially on the subject of the T-word. “It’s property destruction,” he says. “Call it what it is.”
Have something to say? Send a letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. This article first appeared in the July-August 2011 issue of Utne Reader.