‘Above All Else’ follows the life of David Daniel, one of the few grown-ups in the world who still builds tree forts in the woods. David Daniel and his ragtag group of ‘environmentalists’ decide that the most effective way to stop the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is to organize a Tarzanesque sit-in protest in the middle of the forest. As viewers follow the construction of their tree fort, they are inundated with baseless facts about the Keystone XL pipeline and tar sand oil.
Daniel and his camping buddies are apparently unaware that the Keystone pipeline would be a more eco-friendly way to transport oil than shipping it by train, which is how it is transported now. While it would be nice if someone could talk to them and correct their misunderstandings, we doubt anyone will risk the poison ivy and deer ticks.
The lack of bigger-picture context becomes more problematic when Fiege switches to the largely interchangeable young men and women of the Tar Sands Blockade. They proudly step up for the tree-sit, repeatedly thank Daniel for his support, compare themselves to heroes from “Lord of the Rings” and their treetop platforms to the Ewok village from “Return of the Jedi,” but always feel like interlopers in a more intimate story. As one member admits, “We’re college kids and we really didn’t think about strategy.” That leaves the film stuck in an uncomfortable middle ground between generic eco-warrior doc and compelling portrait of organic, homegrown activism. Ideological balance isn’t a consideration here, and there’s no attempt to include the opinions of pipeline supporters in the mix. –Variety