"Man on Stump" photo by T.J. Watt from "If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front"
Eco-themed documentaries are clearly rising in popularity in the documentary film circuit: Among the 15 films on the Oscar shortlist for best documentaries in the 84th annual Academy Awards program, a total of five films cover environmental issues and animal welfare.
The dominant theme ranges from Dr. Jane Goodall’s activism efforts to the fate of a chimp outgrowing a house; the films investigate wars against the military, poachers, loggers and real estate developers, covering toxic water, eco-terrorism and animal exploitation.
The NomineesThe films are (trailers below):
• "Battle for Brooklyn" - a neighborhood fights developers
• "If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front"- extreme eco-activism
• "Jane’s Journey"- a chronicle of primatologist Jane Goodall's life and work
• "Project Nim" - the tale of a chimp’s life communicating with humans
• "Semper Fi: Always Faithful" - a Marine’s battle over contaminated water
1."If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front"
If a Tree Falls follows the transformation of one of ELP’s members, focusing on Daniel McGowan, arrested for his activities with the organization. The story investigates issues surrounding eco-terrorism vs. environmental activism.
2. "Battle for Brooklyn"
A 7-year fight for the preservation of a neighborhood, Battle for Brooklyn documents a grassroots effort of residents taking on a big real estate developer displacing people from homes to build a sports arena and captures the sentiment of Occupy Wall Street's movement against corporate greed.
3. "Jane's Journey"
A chronicle of Dr. Jane Goodall’s life and work, who gave up working with chimpanzees 25 years ago to devote her energy to wildlife conservation. “If we’re the most intellectual creature that’s ever walked on the planet, how come we’re destroying that planet?” she asks in Jane’s Journey.
4. "Semper Fi: Always Faithful"
Semper Fi follows former Marine Jerry Ensminger’s battle with the “Corps” over water contamination at Camp Lejeune. When his 9-year-old daughter dies from leukemia and others fall ill, the Master Sgt. discovers industrial spills and waste disposal leaking 70 toxic chemicals and seeks justice for the cover up.
5. "Project Nim"
Directed by James Marsh (Man on a Wire), Project Nim follows the unsettling journey of a cute chimp taken from its mother, raised like a human child, communicating in American Sign Language, then isolated in a laboratory cage.
It delves into the “humanization” of primates, cruelty of animal testing, and humane treatment of animals.
Other Notable FilmsOther worthy films selected from the 124 submissions include Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory about the incarceration of the West Memphis 3, We Were Here about the emergence of HIV/AIDs in San Francisco, and Buck about the true horse whisperer.
Five nominees will be selected on January 24 and then the winning documentary will be chosen at the 84th Academy Awards on February 26.