Let The Fire Burn (2013)
Critic Consensus: Smartly edited and heartbreakingly compelling, Let the Fire Burn uses archival footage to uncover a troubling -- and still deeply resonant -- chapter in American history.
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Critic Reviews for Let The Fire Burn
Director Jason Osder's grieving account of the deadly police assault on the MOVE collective's fortified Philadelphia row house works small, continuous miracles with a variety of existing footage.
Jason Osder's stunning debut documentary offers a disturbing look at a forgotten tragedy.
[Osder] cuts between news footage of the events as they unfurled and testimony from hearings held afterward to create a stark, nonjudgmental portrait of an incident that probably needn't have happened.
"Let the Fire Burn" offers a searing picture of how dumb and dangerous humans can be.
It's scary as both a movie and a still-reverberating moment in time.
Audience Reviews for Let The Fire Burn
A documentary earlier this year on Mumia Abu-Jamal piqued my interested in and reminded me about MOVE, a radical organization that had clashed with the police in Philadelphia in the 1970's and 1980's. Along comes "Let the Fire Burn," a documentary that makes excellent use of and relies exclusively on archival footage, especially that of a hearing into the events of May 13, 1985 that left 11 members of MOVE dead, including several children, and a neighborhood destroyed, as city authorities increasingly let events spiral out of control.
On the other hand, the format leaves room for some blind spots, namely the alley behind the MOVE headquarters where it is implied that Philadelphia policemen may have gathered to settle scores from a previous confrontation with MOVE that left a policeman dead and for which 9 MOVE members were convicted on sentences lasting decades. At the same time, three policemen were acquitted on assault charges of a MOVE member, even though they were captured on videotape.
At first, in the 1970's, MOVE claimed to be a self-sufficient organization funded on self-defense means like the Black Panthers, as one of the founders had been in the Black Panthers, too, while being labeled a cult and terrorist organization by outsiders.(There is nothing so frightening to a racist than an armed black man.) Here, some more blind spots arise, as questions arise about the internal activities of MOVE, as they also angered their neighbors, and eventually the city government. Its later incarnation in 1984-1985 was even more combative, and I would not disagree with a commenter, that at the time, they sought to directly confront the police, a battle they could not hope to win.
Predecessor to the botched raid and further nonsense in Waco TX which was only a few years after this, Let The Fire Burn uses solely archival footage to tell this 1985 story with wild candor, heart, and shocking immediacy.
Stunning, infuriating, amazingly emotional - the police commissioner and mayor decided to bomb a verbally hostile group camped out in a housing development and then let it burn with people inside, and the innocent neighboring houses burn down as well.
The news cameras rolled during this whole incident, and later interviews are used as well to crushing effect.
This is not an easy movie to experience, and yet it allows you to understand the human suffering on both sides of the controversy.
You will also experience the aggravation, horror, and misunderstandings on all sides.
A piercing, heart-felt take on a truly tragic set of circumstances.
Don't miss this sobering testament.
5 out of 5
Mind-boggling to think this happened. A doc using only footage and no talking heads makes for an immersive experience.
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