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When a young Australian filmmaker documents the destruction of Tasmania’s ancient forests she is swept up in a multi-million dollar legal battle that challenges the right to free speech.
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Young Australian filmmaker Heidi Lee Douglas goes to Tasmania to make a documentary about the destruction of the island’s ancient forests. As anti-logging protests escalate, logging giant Gunns Ltd reacts to public pressure by suing Heidi and 19 others for $6.4 million for allegedly conspiring to destroy the company’s business. When Heidi discovers Gunns wants to use her footage as evidence to support its claims, she faces a crisis of conscience. Heidi’s response is to turn the camera on herself to document her personal struggle as she goes into battle against a corporation out of control.
2014 | 30 mins | Closed Captioned and SDH Subtitles
Heidi has done justice to a difficult conversation that the community needs to have. Greg Le Strange Ex Gunns CEO and Company Board Member
This is an important story that engages on many levels. Gunns governance failed a number of basic governance tests and yet while ever the share price went up, greed powered the market. Even internal corporate governance standards for investment were put aside with disastrous consequences for ordinary investors and an innocent bystander. Congratulations on being so gutsy in telling your story. Rob Purves AM Businessman and Environmental Philanthropist
Defendant 5 is a powerful and personal account of events which should concern us all. Dr Tania Penovic, Deputy Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law
Heidi Douglas is a powerful storyteller. She has captured the essence of the need for balanced and reasoned decision-making about ever-shrinking natural resources. Such decisions must effectively reflect the views of all stakeholders including the public and the environment. The documentary highlights the courage of a few in the community, who are prepared to stand up for the public interest even if it means great personal costs. The value of filmmaking to contribute to education and tolerance about difficult and enduring issues is underscored powerfully indeed. Judith Preston Solicitor (NSW, NT) and Environmental Law Academic (Macquarie University)
Defendant 5 is a story about the most infamous Australian law suit against community activists where Tasmanian logging giant, Gunns Ltd, dragged 20 defendants through the courts in a 5 year case with important implications for free speech. This documentary is the story by and about the 5th Defendant – filmmaker Heidi Douglas. Rather than getting bogged down in the legal details of the huge and multiple pleadings in the case, Defendant 5 paints a bigger picture of the clearfelling of Tasmania's forests, Gunns' proposal to build a giant pulpmill and the subsequent divisions in the Tasmanian community. The narrative brings these big themes together into a very personal story of her own experience of being sued and the massive impact it had on her life.
Dramatic and disquieting at times, and whatever your view of woodchipping and forest protection, the strength of this documentary is how it draws you into the story, so that you can feel what it is was like to be Defendant 5. And while both the case and Gunns itself eventually collapsed, Defendant 5 does not gloat in triumph but rather highlights the cost to everyone of a company that did not listen to the community. It is an important story to tell, and raises many questions about Tasmanian politics, corporate governance, and whether such lawsuits have any place in a democracy. Dr Greg Ogle Author - GAGGED: The Gunns 20 and other law suits Former National Legal Advisor, The Wilderness Society (2004 - 2009)
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