'Wiebo's War' raises questions

JIM SLOTEK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:11 PM ET

What is law? And what is the responsibility of the citizen towards what he regards as a bad law?

Furthermore, what is the recourse of a citizen when government and corporations march in lockstep against your health and well-being?

These are just a few of the questions invoked by Wiebo's War, the open-ended and arguably compromised doc about one of Canada's most famous "eco-terrorists."

Wiebo Ludwig -- characterized by the oil industry and law enforcement as a cult leader and eco-terrorist -- runs a Christian community (composed of his family and another) in the middle of nowhere, that also happens to be in the middle of Alberta's natural gas patch.


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When a company called Enercan informed the Ludwigs and their neighbours that they'd be drilling near (and underneath) their property -- invoking resource law that says you only own the top six feet of your own soil -- most of their fellow citizens chose to sell and move.

Wiebo's extended family stayed and video-documented what they claim were the effects of sour gas, including human and cattle miscarriages and gross malformations.

They also attracted trouble. In 1999, a group of local teens drove recklessly around the Ludwigs' property, spinning their wheels near tents in which children were sleeping. The incident ended with a shotgun blast and a local teenage girl dead. The shooter was never identified.

Wiebo did do some jail time in 2001 for gas-line sabotage. And in 2008, when David York -- the self-proclaimed atheist filmmaker behind the documentary Wiebo's War -- got to bring his cameras inside the compound, yet another series of pipeline bombings was underway.

Right away, York falls into the category of embedded journalist. For the weeks that he films the daily life of the cloistered and self-sufficient community, there appears to be not the slightest scintilla of evidence that anything fishy is going on. Either that's true, or a compromised filmmaker was selective in what he filmed.

In any case, York is there to record visits by the authorities, investigating the man they're clearly certain is a re-offender. A voice in my head says when the police, government and a deep-pocketed gas company are all out to nail you, you're as good as nailed. But every moment of Wiebo's War is circumspect about the involvement of Ludwig or any of his family (for that matter, he has never admitted to the original acts of sabotage that landed him in jail).

With Wiebo's guilt in reasonable doubt (disregarding the fact that there doesn't seem to be anybody else around with a motive), the viewer is left to examine the man himself. He seems tired and maybe even jaded after 20 years of fighting, but still talks a good fight. As a charismatic personality, he bears similarities to that other eco-terrorist Paul Watson, except that Watson travels the world looking for a fight, and in Wiebo's case, the fight came to him.

Whatever it is that Ludwig is guilty of, Wiebo's War does place you into his world, and makes one question what one's own response would be to profound provocation.


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