Film Review: Riveting Doc ‘Burn’ Chronicles City on Fire
CHICAGO – Detroit, Michigan has more fires every year than any other city in the United States. As the city’s population dwindles (from 1.8 million in 1950 to just over 710k in 2010), people are burning what’s left behind to the tune of 30,000 fire calls a year. Executive produced by Denis Leary, the stellar documentary “Burn,” opening in Detroit and Chicago today, offers viewers a chance to spend a year in a Motown firehouse and the result is riveting filmmaking that both captures the personalities on the truck and the larger issues at play in a city on fire.
Directors Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez structure “Burn” in a brilliant way, allowing viewers not just access to life behind the fire hose but to make personal connections with these men who act against the human instinct to run away from the flames. The first thing one notices about the film is the incredible on-the-scene access the filmmakers were given. You will feel the flames, the splash of the water, and the danger as firefighters often wore cameras as they ran into burning homes. These guys brag about how they fight fire with balls. They are the fearless firefighters of Detroit, the ones who run into burning buildings and put fires out from the inside instead of just shooting water at it from the street. Metal guitar riffs play, the men get excited when the bell goes off, and we see the thrill and appeal of fighting flame in a way that has rarely been capture before.
|Read Brian Tallerico’s full review of “Burn” in our reviews section.|
Then “Burn” takes its turn. It starts with the macho posturing but slowly becomes more melancholy as the unique difficulty of fighting fires in Detroit becomes a more prominent part of the story and we get more personally involved with these men. We spend a lot of time with three primary “characters” – one young, handicapped firefighter struggling to return to normalcy after a building collapse, one older firefighter near retirement, and the new fire chief of Detroit, a transplant from the city who worked in Los Angeles for years and has returned to try to save a city that may not be savable.
Photo credit: Area 23a