Monday, April 22, 2013

Let The FIre Burn (2013) Tribeca 2013

After the fires died out
 The story of what happened on May 13,1985 when the Philadelhpia Police tried to evict MOVE from the house they were occupying and ended up burning down a neighborhood, destroying 61 houses and leaving 11 people dead. The story is told completely in television footage of the events, MOVE documentaries and the televised inquiry into the events that May day.

As an document of what happened on that one day this film is a masterpiece and it's a truly frightening story about how two sides escalated things to the point where no one could win and someone was going to die. Within the narrow confines of explaining what happened on that one day the film is quite possibly one of the best films of the year....

...the problem is that outside of those confines the film is lacking in context and necessary explanation. Simply put if you want to know anything other than what happened on May 13th (or at an earlier stand off roughly 10 years earlier) you're going to be out of luck.

I wasn't sure why the film didn't put things into some form of context. It was clear that the director and his crew understood what all the ins and outs of the story was. On the train home from the theater I read the press notes and there is a statement about how the by removing the direct exposition and editorializing the viewer is forced  to make value judgements on their own. The statement said that the questioning is appropriate for a complex tale such as this...

Well it would be if we were given enough information to understand what we were seeing, but we are not. The two things we are never told who or what MOVE is. Yes its a group that kind of is a throw back to a simpler times, but what else? What are they? I don't know. I didn't know in 1985 when I watched this on TV and I don't know now. There is some double speak from MOVE members to explain themselves but its more gibberish than anything else.

The other thing that isn't explained is what brought MOVE and the police into conflict originally. I know why they clashed in 1985, but what happened in 1975 to cause the friction? Its not clear. (Also not clear is why MOVE provoked the police with rifles that were later found not to work)

This could have and should have been one of the films of the year, but the directors refusal to explain things hobbles a largely great film. (There are other things that need explanations like what was the founder of MOVE doing at the house when the film earlier said that he had been sent to prison years earlier).

Flaws aside this is a must see film since it is good a document of what happened on that day as we will ever get and  clearly shows how officials can let things get wildly out of control.

No comments:

Post a Comment