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Sentinels
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Sentinels

‘Sentinels’ is an immersive observational film that follows a small group of young environmental activists as they undertake a tree-sitting campaign to stop a large logging company from clear-cutting a Northern California forest.

‘Sentinels’ grew out of our interest in exploring storytelling based around ethnoecology and the ways that human culture interacts with the natural world. From the beginning we knew that we wanted the film to be sensory and experiential, blending observational camerawork with the slow-cinema narrative grammar of filmmakers like Kelly Reichardt. In doing so, our hope is that the film transports audiences into the redwood forests that the film’s subjects are defending.

A lot has changed since the notorious “timber wars” of the 1990s in the Pacific Northwest and what people think of when it comes to radical environmental activism. Large corporate timber operations like Green Diamond have become more media-savvy and careful to avoid the drama of confrontations with activists that once generated negative publicity and frequent headlines.

‘Sentinels’ brings tree-sitting into present-day focus, bearing witness to the physical endurance and mental resilience that comprise this form of radical activism now taking place largely out of the public eye. The occupation of 18 acres, while seemingly small in scale, is part of a larger effort among activists to protect state and national forests from unsustainable logging practices that contribute to deforestation and the climate crisis.

When we began filming in mid-2020, the Redwood Forest Defense tree-sit was the only active occupation of its kind in the Western United States. Today, more than a half-dozen other tree-sits have emerged, mostly youth-led campaigns in timber parcels across the Pacific Northwest. We hope this film can cast some light on the quiet, often unheralded work of forest defense and the incredible sacrifices to time and comfort that some will make to protect the natural world.