USA – 2013 – 95 MIN – COLOUR / BLACK & WHITE - FEATURE - IN ENGLISH
A FILM BY JASON OSDER
On May 13, 1985, the city government of Philadelphia and an organization called MOVE collided in violent armed conflict - the culmination of more than ten years of simmering tensions that had already claimed the life of a police officer during a 1978 gun battle.
The MOVE group appeared to combine elements of a black power movement with aspects of a back-to-nature religion. Members took the surname “Africa,” wore their hair in dreadlocks and shunned technology and cooked food. Reporters sometimes referred to MOVE as a “cult” and often as “terrorists”.
By 5pm on May 13, police had already fired over 10,000 rounds of ammunition into the fortified row home that contained children and adults. At this point, a helicopter was used to drop a bomb made from two pounds of C-4 military explosive onto the house. During the next hour, police, firefighters, and city officials looked on as the fire grew out of control.
The fire ultimately claimed the lives of five children and six adults. Sixty-one homes were destroyed. This incident is more than just an under-known American tragedy. It is an epic illustration of how intolerance and fear can lead to unthinkable acts of violence.
LET THE FIRE BURN is historical documentary as epic tragedy. The artistic intention is to tell a dramatic story that poses essential questions about human nature and society. Viewers will be intellectually engaged, emotionally involved, and morally challenged by a story out of the recent past that still resonates today.
I was growing up outside Philadelphia in 1985 when the fire happened. I remember being truly scared. I was struck that the children killed in the house (burned alive) were my own age, living in my own town. Their parents and the police had utterly failed to protect them. Regardless of politics or race or whether MOVE was a cult, I knew even as a child that the children were not to blame for what happened to them and that a fundamental injustice had occurred.
A film cannot bring justice to the deaths of eleven people, but an additional injustice is done when this history goes unremembered. This is too powerful and important a story to be forgotten.
“[Osder] uses police video, TV reports and archival videotape from the official MOVE Commission that probed this urban debacle to mesmerizing effect, showing all sides of a tangled story."
- THE TORONTO STAR
“Brilliantly edited, the film moves back and forth in time, first tracking the events leading up to the confrontation through news reports of the day. Then it follows a commission struck five months after the attack to find out why the police decided to bomb a house where children were known to reside, resulting in the devastation of a neighbourhood.”
- THE GLOBE AND MAIL
“...the film plays out almost exactly as you would imagine a fictionalized account starring some big movie star would – it’s just that exciting and dramatic."
- DIGITAL JOURNAL
"Osder’s technique makes this a film that’s impossible to keep your eyes off of, and makes for one of the most effective documentaries to come out this year.”
- WAY TOO INDIE
“… LET THE FIRE BURN is an intriguing inquiry into a little-known 1985 incident between Philadelphia police and a radical group that ended with 11 dead and an entire housing block up in flames.”
- METRO TORONTO
NNNN "...a grim look at the way a crisis can give law-enforcers licence to do awful things in the name of keeping the peace."
- NOW MAGAZINE
"as gripping as any standoff thriller"
"Osder’s meticulously assembled film has the edge-of-your-seat intensity of a courtroom drama"
- GROLSCH FILM WORKS
"...a vital piece of filmmaking, pulsing with a sense of immediacy that is rare in documentaries."
- NEXT PROJECTION
"LET THE FIRE BURN is one of 2013′s top docs"
- WYLIE WRITES
"A fantastically entertaining film that still manages to feel relevant in the context of contemporary race relations."
- TORONTO FILM SCENE
"LET THE FIRE BURN is a safe, well-constructed documentary.”
- ALPHAS MAGAZINE