A 400 year old oak tree is to be cut down to make way for a new highway. The roadway is to lead to the next projected development, with 20,000 housing units, in the ever growing urban sprawl of Los Angeles County. "Oak #419" is a documentary about the protest movement to try to save this tree, led by John Quigley who spent 71 days living on its limbs.
The movement became much bigger than just this tree, receiving great media attention, which became the main tool of the protest. The significance of someone having the courage to stand up for what he believes in was reflected in the enthusiastic crowd of people who were drawn to the tree: television reporters and camerapeople, photographers, radio announcers, musicians, people in frog suits, Latino immigrants, Filippino immigrants, cheerleaders, Native Americans and even Santa Claus – symbolic of the cultural diversity of Los Angeles and California. The film is about an attempt to reclaim democracy in today's divided, neoconservative America.
The occupied tree became the "proverbial line in the sand" between nature, and the voracious development that is happening all over the world in the age of global warming. It became a symbol of a phenomenon that is common to the world over in the face of "progress". Can one weigh the value of real estate development against that of nature? What is "progress"?