The Forest for the Trees

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Film phase:Completed


The Forest for the Trees is an intimate look at an unlikely team of young activists and old lefties who come together to battle the U.S. government following environmental activist Judi Bari’s arrest  on terrorism charges in 1990. Filmmaker Bernadine Mellis, the daughter of Bari’s attorney, Dennis Cunningham, documents her morally driven, very tired dad, while offering us access into the life of the extraordinary Judi Bari and a piece of U.S. history that is increasingly resonant.




Bernadine Mellis faces the camera and looks off to the side. Headshot in black and white.Bernadine Mellis makes films that range from experimental fiction to non-fiction.  In addition to The Forest for the Trees, Bernadine directed The Odyssey, a collaborative adaptation of Homer’s 24-chapter epic, made up of 24 shorts by 24 mostly queer, trans, and women filmmakers. Currently, Bernadine is working on two projects: an archive of stories of children of the New Left and a documentary about home funerals, body composting, and green burial.  She teaches film & video production at Mount Holyoke College.




The Forest for the Trees premiered at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, was broadcast on the Sundance Channel, and is now available on Netflix Instant. In addition, it has been used by environmental and civil liberties activists, as well as students, teachers, and professors, as a tool for organizing and education nationally.  Selected awards include: Silver Plaque, Hugo Awards for Excellence in TV; Grand Prize, Green Film Festival in Seoul, Korea; Best Documentary, Tiburon Film Festival; Best Short Documentary, Brooklyn Arts Council; Audience Award-Best Doc, Santa Cruz Film Festival; Aspiring Filmmaker Award, Mountain Film Festival; Best Student Film, Ashland Indie Film Festival; and the Bronze Plaque, Columbus International Film & Video Festival.