pickAxe turns camera into activist

Emotion can drive people to do just about anything. It isn’t uncommon for someone to love another so much that they will endure pain or torment or do just about anything to show his or her appreciation for that someone. Neither is it uncommon for Hollywood filmmaking to abuse this ideal, fantasizing and falsifying it, taking all life from that love and removing all emotion.

But what if this love was not for another person, but for Mother Nature herself? And what if this wasn’t Hollywood telling the story, but common individuals, with first-hand experience in dealing with that emotion?

Tim Lewis and Tim Mead’s documentary film, pickAxe, shows the reality of just what a group of people will do when a cause so immensely important to them catches their attention and fails to let go.

Filmed during the year-long road blockade of an original growth forest near Warner Creek, Oregon, pickAxe is documentary filmmaking at its most potent, removing the Hollywood fantasies to give the clearest vision of reality and truth.

An Igniting Fire

It was an arson’s match that set the Warner Creek forest ablaze. The forest, which was protected from logging by the national government before the fire, was then subject to salvage, a governmental practice of clear cutting “dead” forest for profit. However, as seen through the eyes of these activists and made clear through the lens of the camera, any fire is a natural disaster, one with which Mother Nature heals herself through time and without the aid of humans.

It became apparent to these people, these lovers of the land, that it was their responsibility to inform higher officials of these activities and promote the well-being of the forest.

pickAxe picks up from here, telling the story from an activist’s viewpoint. The film itself takes on the role of activist with a much greater voice than a group of people, and the capability of reaching millions.

Stirring Audiences

On screen, Ream has proven the measures to which he will go as an activist, including his 75-day hunger strike. Off screen, Ream fills the shoes of activist filmmaker, capturing the true emotion of the activists he films. Ream stirs the viewer with activist footage constructed of events that serve as tiny narratives on their own, but never divert the overall construct of the work.

Some of the most stirring footage comes in one of these small narratives in which Ream leads a group to protest the incarceration of four sisters who were the last stronghold at Warner Creek. The violence endured by the passive crowd from officers stands out as an emotional high point, developing just a part of the large picture. Ream’s editing keeps pickAxe‘s message intact throughout, never losing sight of the true focus.

Documentary filmmaking has several purposes, but in pickAxe‘s case, it is to make the public aware of a certain situation by stirring them up. pickAxe displays the struggles of activism, battles that see no resolution for long periods of time. Ream’s filmmaking finds a way to convert a year-long blockade into 95 minutes of film, but still communicates the true length of the struggle. By displaying the simple message by which the activists operate and the ignorance of the officials who avoid this message, pickAxe converges on emotion to literally make the viewer restless.

Bringing It to the Masses

As both an Earth Day event and in conjuction with their Tree Free Paper Campaign, the Minnesota Public Interest Research Group is hosting a screening of the film and an appearance by director Tim Ream at the University.

As part of the Forest Defense Tour 2001, pickAxe is currently on tour with Ream in order to expose, on a local level, the atrocities happening in national forests. The “40 Cities in 50 Days” tour will jaunt cross country, stopping at college campuses nationwide.

By bringing pickAxe to the University, it is the hope of both groups that students and faculty will realize the mass quantities of paper that we consume everyday as part of the University.

In addition to Ream, MPIRG representatives Cara Saunders and Laurel Chapman will be speaking after the screening. They will address University issues as well as recommendations and solutions regarding the goals of MPIRG’s Tree Free Paper Campaign and the Forest Defense program.

pickAxe premiers in Minneapolis on April 22 at 7p.m. in Moos Tower Room 2-620. Director Tim Ream will also be in attendance.