Opening Shot: Defendant 5

2014-12-07_1807Tonight’s Opening Shot documentary from emerging filmmakers is Defendant 5, Heidi Lee Douglas’ very personal story as she finds herself swept up in a multi-million dollar legal battle with Tasmanian-based logging giant, Gunns Ltd, that challenges the right to free speech.

The broadcast marks the ten year anniversary of the Gunns 20 legal case, having received their writ just before Xmas on 14 December 2004.

In Defendant 5, screening as part of the Opening Shot, young filmmaker Heidi Lee Douglas goes to Tasmania to make a film about the effect of logging on the community. She discovers that one company is profiting most from the logging of the old growth forests, Gunns Ltd, the biggest wood chipper in the Southern Hemisphere.

As the campaign to protect the old growth forests escalates, Heidi takes more risks and crosses the line from filmmaker to activist. Community support to protect Tasmania’s forests spreads across Australia and around the world. But the issue is divisive, with timber workers, many of whom work for Gunns, believing their futures are at stake.

Without warning, Heidi and 19 other critics are sued by Gunns for $6.4 million dollars for allegedly conspiring to harm the company’s business. The defendants are a disparate group – elected politicians, campaigners, a doctor, a dentist, an author and students. Together they become known as the Gunns 20.

Heidi discovers Gunns wants to use her footage as evidence of its allegation of conspiracy. She faces a crisis of conscience as the footage she had been gathering to help the community now threatens to harm them. She is asked to stop filming independent protests because it’s believed she is under surveillance. With her privacy and rights under question, Heidi turns the camera on herself.

Defendant 5 is the personal story of one young woman who learnt that fighting for what she believed in had repercussions beyond her wildest nightmares.

9:30pm tonight on ABC2.


  1. Regarding the summary of this story on the article list page, Gunns is less mining and more timber. They also used to own a chain of Mitre 10 stores before they went broke.

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