A new documentary chronicling the attempted assassination of local Earth First! organizers Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney premiers in Mendocino County April 4th and 5th at the Noyo Theater, in Willits. Directed by car-bomb victim Darryl Cherney, who was initially an FBI suspect, the film explores the trials and tribulations of two environmentalists seeking justice in a judicial system that would rather blame the victims for bombing themselves than find their attempted killer.
The 93-minute documentary chronicles the local story of the environmental movement to protect old growth forests in Northern California, the assassination attempt against its organizers to stop them, and their ensuing legal battle against the government for discrediting the activists as terrorists, while their attempted killer remains at large to this day. Ultimately, Cherney and Bari waged one of the first successful lawsuits against the F.B.I. for attempting to pin the bombing on the victims because of their political beliefs. See the trailer for Who Bombed Judi Bari? here.
“This film is a graphic, factual display of criminality on the part of police in the service of big business. It got me angry, it made me sad, but above all it made me laugh like hell,” said actor Peter Coyote.
While other films have been made about the assassination attempt against Cherney and Bari, Who Bombed Judi Bari? is unique in that the film is a first person account of the events that made local and national history. The late Judi Bari tells her story recorded on film 30 days before she dies, as the documentary flashes back and forward to illustrate the events she describes.
Who Bombed Judi Bari? follows Bari and Cherney’s organizing of Redwood Summer in 1990, where thousands of people gathered, to successfully secure one of the largest tracts of old growth forests in the U.S. for conservation, now known as the Headwaters Forest Reserve near Eureka, California. The film also follows their traumatic bombing and experience with unfriendly law enforcement, and the ensuing successful lawsuit against the Oakland Police Department and the F.B.I.
“The victory against the F.B.I. and against the police is the impetus for this movie because we want to share how we got to point of calling the F.B.I. and O.P.D. to task,” said Cherney who hopes the film will be an inspiration to other movements grappling with repression at home.
“The government has a lot of bark and they can be taken on and brought back down to size,” Cherney continues, “They’re supposed to be working for us of course and we want people to know that protest and litigation can succeed… so our movie comes out of that victory. It was a bitter-sweet victory because Judi didn’t live to see it, but it was a victory nonetheless. And we live in a world where we need more victories.”
Already screened in Los Angeles and San Francisco, Who Bombed Judi Bari? will have a local screening in Judi Bari’s hometown, Willits. Cherney says he’s pleased to bring the film home for one of it’s first screenings, where he and Bari organized to protect old growth trees from poor logging practices in Mendocino and Humboldt counties in the 90’s.
“The whole point of that is to honor the people who knew Judi and the local community where this movie takes place before this movie gets too big and partially out of our control. We want to make sure the people here get a chance to see it on our terms,” he said.
Cherney will be present at the screening for questions and answers afterwards. According to Cherney, he’s already had offers by distributors and is flooded with requests for screenings in other locations.
“It’s fantastic and exhausting; we’ve got a gem, the audiences are riveted,” he said.
Cherney worked for 2 and half years on the documentary with Producer Mary Liz Thomson. Before that, they worked together on a movie script about his experience for seven years with local playwright Sherry Glaser-Love.
But the story is not over. Bari and Cherney’s attempted assassin remains at large and their lawsuit against the FBI continues to make news. In 2011, their legal team secured a stop order preventing the FBI from destroying evidence that could contain the bomber’s DNA; and ordering it turned over to an independent lab for testing. The FBI appealed the order. On March 31st, 2012 Honorable Claudia Wilken ordered the FBI, to turn over evidence in the 1990 car bomb assassination attempt to a third party forensic laboratory for independent testing.
“It is really a unique opportunity to open up a window into a government blessed assassination attempt of an American citizen,” reflects Cherney on his own life story.
“It may not stop global warming nor stop clear cutting of forests, but it affords us the opportunity to put an important piece of the puzzle, a small piece that could help us see the big picture,” he continues.
Cherney’s story is gaining momentum. Who Bombed Judi Bari? is scheduled for screenings to September 2012. Cherney says he also hopes to find a producer for their movie screenplay based on their bombing, trial and quest for justice.
Who Bombed Judi Bari? will screen at the Noyo Theater in Willits April 4th and 5th at 7pm. $7.50 adults, $5.50 seniors and children. Cherney will be present for a Q&A afterwards . Call the Noyo Theater for more info: (707) 459-NOYO (6696). Screenings in Ukiah and Fort Bragg are in the works.