First Arriving Network
First Arriving Network

Review of “Burn”

This is a must see documentary

My tribe filled up a row in the back of the AMC LOEWS Georgetown 14 for the 8:30 pm showing on Friday. The theatre was about 3/4's full.











Spent a good part of today thinking about what we saw and what it means.

Adam O'Conner from "Real Detroit Weekly":

A brilliantly-filmed documentary with exquisite camera work and editing, including a very appropriate and well thought-out soundtrack, Burn shows exactly what trials and tribulations the firefighters of our once-great city face every single day on the job.

Extremely limited funding, a city that is crumbling upon itself – both literally and figuratively – and the obvious physical hazards that each worker faces on a daily basis are only a few of the depressing themes shown through this great work of cinematography.

Birds-eye views of the city, camera work that gives a literal perspective of fighting a fire from within a burning building and lots of personal interactions and dialogue spent at the firehouses with the crews all add an air of personal investment, though each stops just short of being entirely devastating and emotionally-draining for the viewer.

In response to a question posed by O'Conner in his review, a response from the directors/producers:

… the City of Detroit granted us access to the department with no creative control.

It was a months-long process of discussions about the scope of the film. We maintained that we would be honest and fair and they trusted us, bit by bit. It was a bold and courageous move for a beleaguered administration, but one we are grateful to them for.

You'll notice in the film we don't discuss the history of Detroit or the "how we got here" — we presume any American with a basic education has an understanding of that. We also don't point fingers, because that's not compelling storytelling.

Our goal at the outset was to make an apolitical film that focuses on who these guys are and the work they do. The best war films aren't about war, but about the guys who fight the fight. They get into your heart and they stay there.

Again, thanks so much for the great review!

Tom Putnam & Brenna Sanchez
Director/Producers, BURN

Tom Santilli interviewed Putnam and Sanchez for I found this part of the interview helpful in considering my reactions to Fire Commissioner Donald Austin:

Of all of the people in the movie, Fire Commissioner Donald Austin seemed to be the most fascinating. A native Detroit-er, he comes over from California with high hopes and ends up seeming in the film like his spirit gets sucked dry. Is he in an impossible situation, or did he strike you as simply the wrong man for the job?

Brenna: It's an impossible position, an impossible job. Because the city doesn't have any money. Dollar resources are strapped. Human resources are strapped. I think he's doing the best he can. He's smart, he's honest, he works so hard. He came in with an idea that he was going to re-structure a contemporary, urban fire department.

Tom: And instead, he was given an ax. A hatchet. To make cuts.

Santilli, Tom. (2012 December 05) Movie review: 'Burn' a documentary profiling the Detroit Fire Department.

Though it’s a well-made and eye-opening film, as a Detroit-er, I also found myself feeling slightly agitated and frustrated while watching Burn. Another movie about how bad things are in Detroit?

While Burn exposes some real problems facing our city, it’s yet another black eye for a city whose image has already been beat down and demolished.

When a film sheds light on problems facing Detroit and yet fails to provide us with any real answers, rays of hope or even possible suggested paths to salvation, it is difficult for me to understand the point.

Enough is enough with showing the ugliness of Detroit, there should be a real sense of responsibility to enlighten the masses on what should be done, if anything. Or like a bunch of pyromaniacs, are we supposed to derive pleasure as we sit back and watch a city burn?

Perhaps that’s an unfair, biased take. But being born and raised in Detroit, I couldn’t help but feel slightly burned by Burn.

Funding for film release/distribution remains an issue








Go HERE to make a direct donation.

You can pay $15 to download an additional 90 minutes of Detroit ($20 for DVD).  Go HERE.

Or you can pay $250 to have FEO Dave Parnell (retired Engine 50) make you dinner. Go HERE.

Go HERE to request a viewing in your town.

No official information on when a DVD of Burn would be available.

Mike "FossilMedic" Ward

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