In 2001, filmmaker Heidi Lee Douglas goes to the Australian island state of Tasmania to make a documentary about the destruction of the island's ancient forests.

As anti-logging protests escalate, she crosses the line from filmmaker to activist.

Logging giant Gunns Ltd reacts to public pressure by suing Heidi Lee Doglas and 19 others for $6.4m for allegedly conspiring to destroy the company's business.

When the filmmaker discovers Gunns wants to use her footage as evidence to support its claims, she faces a moral dilemma. Her response is to turn the camera on herself to document her personal struggle as she goes into battle against a corporation out of control.


By Heidi Lee Douglas

My parents were teachers who loved to take the family on shoestring adventures, camping around Australia and backpacking through Asia. My earliest memories are of the wild forests and deserts of Australia, and staying in small villages in Southeast Asia. These travels developed my sense of connection to nature and my capacity for empathy, as I met children my own age living in extreme poverty. I wanted to find a way to convey my experiences to my peers in Australia. Picking up a video camera at 17, I knew I had found that tool. I enrolled to learn how to make documentaries and I focused on environmental and human rights storytelling. That passion has stayed with me for 15 years.

What I did not expect was that in making films of this nature, I was exposing myself to attack. And I also did not realise what kind of foe I was taking on when I went to Tasmania in 2001 to make a film about the controversy over logging. With just a small miniDV camera rig, I set off with a list of names of concerned people to interview throughout the state. The logging practices were dividing the community, and there was a monopoly of blame attributed to Tasmanian timber giant Gunns Ltd.

The story seemed much larger than me and my limited resources but I persevered because I was moved by the anxiety the destruction of the environment was causing the community. My work was noticed by the heads of The Wilderness Society who then employed me to make films for them. Still using my own small camera kit, the films I made for The Wilderness Society became invaluable campaign tools used the world over, and I continued to film independently whenever I could, to cover the wider story.

When I was sued by Gunns I was shocked to be named alongside high profile, long-term environmental campaigners like Senator Bob Brown and head of The Wilderness Society Alec Marr. But I instinctively knew I had to keep filming, although I was not sure how to do that as I had become part of the story.

As we began to understand the claims made against us, it became clear that because I filmed at both independent actions and Wilderness Society actions, I was a lynchpin in Gunns' allegation of a conspiracy to harm and undermine their business. My very right to film was being questioned, and I found myself under surveillance. The David and Goliath story I had been following now was playing itself out through me. I was scared and alone. The only solace I found was in keeping a video diary.

I knew one day I wanted to make a film about the court case so I continued to film where I could throughout the case and, as the years progressed, my camera kit gradually improved as technology progressed. What I did not expect was that the eventual film would be focused on my own journey... 

Source: Al Jazeera