"Wrenched": Documentary Film Chronicles Edward Abbey's Monkey Wrenching Legacy

Oct 10, 2012

The Flagstaff Mountain Film Festival begins today. This year's event will feature more than a dozen environmental documentaries including, "Wrenched", by Jerome filmmaker ML Lincoln. The film picks up where Edward Abbey's iconic novel The Monkey Wrench Gang left off, chronicling Abbey's legacy of environmental civil disobedience. Arizona Public Radio's Gillian Ferris Kohl spoke with ML Lincoln about the project.

GFK: For people who may not be award of Edward Abbey's philosophy about the environment and the natural world, what is it?

MLL: He was interested in stopping the destruction of industrialization of the West, dams, coal burning plants, Peabody Coal, uranium mining, recreational use, over-abundance of recreation in the West. And, Edward Abbey was a complicated person and there are many sides to him. You know, how do you make a movie about a person who, first of all isn't alive, and not kill the myth about him?

GFK: How do you do that?

MLL: It's difficult, but you talk to his friends and you do it through his writing.

GFK: How did you find his friends? How did you track them down?

MLL: The environmental community actually is a very small community and they all know each other. So once I went to one person, then I called another and we all seemed to get along and it's a very grassroots filmmaking process.

GFK: In The Monkey Wrench Gang the Glen Canyon Dam is sort of the focus, they associate it with the evils of the industrial world and want to blow it up throughout the whole book. Is that something people are still pushing for?

MLL: I don't think that blowing up the dam is really going to happen. It's more restoring Glen Canyon. It is letting nature take its course.

GFK: I was hoping, ML, that you could talk about the linguistic shift from monkey wrenching to eco-terrorism because that seems to be the preferred term now. Do you think this is an accurate definition of the original ideas in Abbey's novel? Terrorism is a strong word.

MLL: Yes, what's happening today is that it's impossible for these so-called eco-terrorists to get a fair trial because what judge or jury is going to impede the government's efforts in investigating a so-called act of terrorism? So, the labeling is off. It's not right.

GFK: Does radical action work?

MLL: That question is asked a lot in the film, you know, what kind of action will be effective. And what is answered is a diversity of actions. You have to have diversity. There isn't one action that's going to do it. And that is one of the things that I would like people to come away from the film with is knowledge is empowerment, meaning, you can do something.

GFK: Would you consider yourself a monkey wrencher, at least at heart?

MLL: Yes, very much so. I started way back in the 60's. I ws in street theatre in New York City and went to the New School for Social Research where we closed down the building to protest the Vietnam War. So, I started way back then and I'm not stopping.