Giant trees, primeval ferns, fungi and moss, birds and beetles and all kinds of other creatures – including humans. Decay and renaissance, doom and light-flooded idyll: a forest always epitomizes creation. If it goes, so too does both the air we breathe and the sense of belonging and well-being this familiar world affords. Every two seconds, illegal loggers internationally destroy forestland of the dimensions of a football field – and that even on our doorstep. Part of the wood burned and consumed in Europe doesn't originate from the tropics but from the last remaining European primeval forests. In the countries of Eastern Europe, yet also within the EU, they're being mercilessly felled. And to what end but for money, power and profit?
WOOD is a film about the forest that's vanishing all the time and the people who are make a living out of it. Sure, some of them need the sale of wood for their survival, but others are only interested in their own power. It's a question of corruption, political policy, the indifference of the authorities and finally about whether the so-called control systems are able to prevent the interests of individuals from trumping the interests of the community.
The protagonist of the film is a great-great-great-nephew of the Iron Chancellor and a former U.S. Marine. But Alexander von Bismarck, activist and head of the Environmental Investigation Agency in Washington, D.C., combats other opponents today. With fake identities, dyed hair and beard, he's on the trail of the timber mafia and their accomplices: in the Russian taiga, where deforestation also threatens the existence of the magnificent Siberian Tiger, the world's largest feline; in anonymous factories in northern China, where illegal Russian timber is processed and shipped; in the United States, where the largest wood flooring company sells its dubious goods even though it's already under investigation; in the primary forests of Romania, where a major Austrian businessman doesn't hesitate to process wood logged in national parks; and finally in the jungles of Peru, where the timber mafia exploits and terrorizes the forest's actual owners, the indigenous population.
With a sure instinct for outing the "source of pain" and going to where the ill has its roots, with a hidden camera and secret sound recorder, Alexander von Bismarck leads us into the swampy midst and criminal machinations of the wood syndicates and their customers, the dealers and big furniture companies. But like his famous ancestor, he too is a realpolitiker and pragmatist. He's not interested in spectacular actions for their own sake, but in convincing politicians and the public to accept new rules for the global economy. WOOD shows how political decisions can be brought about through skill, dedication, resilience and commitment. It's evident that this is a risky undertaking – the Romanian Minister of Agriculture fell victim to a mercury attack and two dedicated foresters forewent their lives.
The film shows the forest as an idyllic, but very real location in all its complexity, giving an idea of the true price of these apparently so inexpensive wooden products flogged so cheaply in western construction and furniture markets. WOOD is a thriller in which the tension is drawn from sad everyday reality.