'POV' flirts with the Butterfly

Tuesday, June 20, 2000

To some she's a heroine, the savior of an ancient tree. To others, she's a media savvy woman at the vanguard of an extremist organization. She's Julia Hill, who took the name Butterfly when she climbed to the top of a 180-foot tree and decided to stay there for more than two years. Her story, and the controversy over clear-cutting ancient forests in California's Humboldt County, is the subject of "Butterfly," a new film by Doug Wolens on "P.O.V." (9 p.m., PBS).

"Butterfly" takes us to Hill's lair and lets her try to explain what it was like to live for more than 700 days in a tree she named Luna. Hill was hardly adrift in the sky like some crusading Robinson Crusoe. She had a radio, a cell phone, a pager. She was supported, and visited by a network of "Earth First" activists, ardent environmentalists who have been battling the lumber industry for years.

"Butterfly" presents a less than objective view of the struggle in Humboldt County. While we get a sense that the Earth Firsters are taking on a rapacious corporation owned by a Wall Street takeover artist, I would have like to have heard a more balanced assessment from a third party. As it is, we hear from some angry loggers who see Butterfly and her ilk as a threat to their livelihood, and a lot of Earth Firsters who seemed to have turned environmentalism into a virtual religion.

By the end of her tree-top sojourn and visits from the world media, it's clear that Butterfly was beginning to entertain some pretty messianic pretensions. This does not sit well with all of the Earth Firsters, one of whom speaks on camera about her concerns about Butterfly's ego trip. We also get to hear from Butterfly's dad, an evangelical preacher who is both proud of his daughter and jealous of her spiritual sojourn. But I found that an hour was all I could stand before the eco-babble of Butterfly and her cohorts started driving me up a tree.

Other highlights

Cult choice

Series notes

Harm competes with a top-gun hotshot on "JAG" (7 p.m., CBS, TV-PG, V) " Suddenly single, Susan sends strong signals on "Suddenly Susan" (7 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) " Regis Philbin hosts "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" (7 p.m., ABC) " Cheryl loses her figure on "Shasta" (7 p.m., UPN, TV-14) " Willow's wayward spell on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (7 p.m., WB, TV-PG, D, L, V).

Josh returns to form at his bachelor party on "Veronica's Closet" (7:30 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) " The art world shudders on "Dilbert" (7:30 p.m., UPN, TV-PG).

Jack embarrasses Will on "Will & Grace" (8 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) " Celebrities turn to Dharma on "Dharma & Greg" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-PG, L) " More bungee jumping on "I Dare You! The Ultimate Challenge" (7 p.m., UPN, TV-14) " A child possessed on "Angel" (8 p.m., WB, TV-PG, V).

Riley pursues her roots on "M.Y.O.B" (8:30 p.m., NBC, TV-PG) " Bad news for Pete's gramps on "Two Girls and A Guy" (8:30 p.m., ABC, TV-PG, D, L).