Cover image for The forest for the trees
The forest for the trees
Publication Information:
Oley, PA : Bullfrog Films, 2006.
Physical Description:
1 videodisc (57 min.) : sound, color ; 4 3/4 in.
System Details:
Target Audience:
Grades 10-12, College, Adult.
Brooklyn Arts Council award for best short documentary ; Audience award for best documentary short at the Santa Cruz Film Festival ; Best student film at Ashland Independent Film Festival ; Best documentary award at the Tiburon Film Festival ; Aspiring filmmaker award at the MountainFilm Festival.
"On May 29, 1990, Earth First! organizer Judi Bari's car was bombed in Oakland, California. Within three hours of the bombing, Bari was accused of transporting the explosives that had nearly killed her. Still in the hospital, she was arrested, and soon labeled a terrorist in the national media. The charges were later dropped. For the next twelve years, Bari and civil rights lawyer Dennis Cunningham would pursue a federal civil rights suit against the FBI and the Oakland police department. The Forest for the Trees, directed by Cunningham's daughter, is an intimate, behind-the-scenes look at Bari's fight, an important instance of the false and damaging association of dissent with crime and terrorism. At the heart of the film is Bari, a folk hero with an electrifying onscreen presence, and the legal battle that few believed she could win"--Cover.
Corporate Subject:


Material Type
Shelf Number
Visual Media Faculty GE56.B37F67 2006 1

On Order



This is an intimate look at an unlikely team of young activists and old civil rights workers who come together to battle the U.S. government. Judi Bari was an Earth First! leader who was one of the first to place as much importance on timber workers' lives and families as she did on the legacy and future of the trees. But that strategic relationship was too much of a threat. Her car was bombed in 1990, and three hours later, she was arrested as a terrorist--charges that were later dropped. Convinced it was a ploy by the FBI to discredit her and Earth First!, Judi decided to sue. Cunningham took on Judi's case and after 12 years, Judi Bari v. the FBI finally gets a court date. Knowing this is one of her father's most important cases, Mellis is there at strategy meetings, at breakfast, driving to and from the court, documenting her morally driven, very tired dad. Not your typical "Take your daughter to work day," THE FOREST FOR THE TREES offers access into a unique father-daughter relationship, the painfully short yet extraordinary life of Judi Bari, and a piece of U.S. history that everyday grows increasingly resonant as once again the lines between dissent and terrorism are being intentionally blurred.


The amazing story of the fight to clear Earth First! activist Judi Bari's name after her car was bombed and she was arrested as a terrorist. (DVD-R)

Reviews 2

School Library Journal Review

Gr 10 Up-This is a story as current as today's headlines with its charges of terrorism and delayed justice. In 1990, Judi Bari, an Earth First! activist, was severely injured in a car bomb explosion. She was arrested as a terrorist. Government officials believed she was transporting the bomb to be used at an Earth First! sponsored protest. Bari decided to sue the FBI. This is the story of the ensuing 12-year legal battle. What makes the video even more appealing is the fact that the narrator and filmmaker, Bernadine Mellis, is the daughter of the 68-year-old civil rights lawyer, Dennis Cunningham, who represented Bari. Early in his career, Cunningham represented the Black Panthers and the Weathermen. Historical film footage of Earth First! protests and interviews with logging company executives and people who worked with Bari are interspersed with banter between Cunningham and his daughter. The anguish of the struggle for civil rights and liberties is at the forefront of the story. Bari, a victim of breast cancer, filmed her deposition and it was presented at the trial in 2001, five years after her death. A six week trial, and 3 ½ weeks of deliberation, vindicated Bari and awarded $4.4 million in damages. Classes in social sciences can utilize this title as a case study for further examination of individual rights in time of war, FBI and COINTELPRO (counter-intelligence conducted by the FBI) activities, and a history of Earth First! Teachers utilizing this video are advised that vulgar language peppers the dialogue.-Patricia Ann Owens, Wabash Valley College, Mt. Carmel, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

In 1990, Earth First! activist Judi Bari's car was bombed, and she was badly injured. The FBI charged that she was transporting the bomb for use in ecoterrorist activities involving the timber industry, and she was arrested. The charges were subsequently dropped for lack of evidence. Bari and Darryl Cherney, a fellow activist who was in the car with her, sued the FBI and the police, claiming false arrest and illegal search and seizure. Filmmaker-narrator Mellis is the daughter of Bari's legendary civil rights lawyer Dennis Cunningham. Here she chronicles the case's 12-year march to the courthouse through sensitive pacing, interviews with key players, and an inside view of the legal work that preceded the trial. Before the case ever went to trial, Bari died of breast cancer. Mellis uses footage of Bari that conveys her personal power and the reasons why those who survived her fought so long for a just result. Mellis succeeds in telling the story from the point of view of those who lived it. In addition, The Forest for the Trees is a reverential tribute to activism. When Mellis focuses on Cunningham, who once defended the Black Panthers and the Weathermen, we see a tender portrait of the quirky, aging idealist who hands his daughter cash when she has none, lets slip the occasional string of blue language, and rails against a problem with technology in the courtroom. Near the end of the film, we hear Cunningham's closing argument in which he tells Bari's story and measures what was at stake with eloquence and simplicity. This film will be of interest and inspiration to activist organizations and is recommended for libraries serving them.--Joan Pedzich, Harris Beach PLLC, Rochester, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. All rights reserved.