Bidder 70 Preserves Our Wilderness, One Civil Disobedience at a Time


Bidder 70 tells a uniquely American story. Only in the United States would the president auction off protected wilderness to energy and mining companies to help the government turn a profit. Only in the U.S. would a college student show up to the auction and outbid the companies, then be taken to court and ultimately thrown in federal prison for falsifying his bids. That president was George W. Bush, of course. The wilderness was in Utah. And the college kid, Tim DeChristopher, proves a fascinating subject for Beth and George Gage’s new documentary. Grown up and dressed alternately in a suit and tie or hiking boots and shorts—his natural attire—DeChristopher uses his first act of civil disobedience to set into motion a larger organization, Peaceful Uprising, which is committed to nonviolent protest and environmental activism. Never mind that the land auction was later invalidated and 100,000 acres preserved; DeChristopher sees it as symptomatic of the ways in which capitalism paralyzes environmental progress. He also offers an unusual sight: a white man in a tie, behind a bullhorn, shouting for peace. Images of activists and protesters have become a more frequent sight in recent media, and Bidder 70 has its requisite share of hippies painting banners, but DeChristopher’s ability to move with intellectual seriousness and a light heart between festivals and courtrooms complicates the popular idea of The Man and what his brand of power can achieve.