Let The Fire Burn

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Jason Osder’s Let The Fire Burn (2013) is undermined by the subtextual void created by Osder’s lack of commitment to explaining to his audience the very nature of MOVE, the supposed protagonists of his documentary.  Similarly to The Weather Underground, Osder insinuates that violence begets more violence; or in most cases, the suggestion of potential violence beckons realized counter-violence.  However, Osder’s film does not inform the viewer of any of MOVE’s intentions nor any motives.  So it becomes a matter of speculation as to the emotions the film draws from its audience as being politically motivated or simply propagandist in nature.  More often than not, when a filmmaker negates essential details in a documentary it is to disproportionately represent either side of a conflict, relegating the intention of the film beyond the simple cinematic journalism, albeit liberal, in something like Chris Marker’s The Sixth Side Of The Pentagon.

It seems safe to say, given the example of William Gazecki’s Waco: The Rules Of Engagement (1997), that the audience’s sympathies would not go out to the abominable Philadelphia Police Department but rest squarely with the MOVE members.  After all David Koresh manages to come off as the victim of the ATF in Gazecki’s film simply because his crime was far out weighed by the ATF and FBI’s intentional mass murder of innocents; so why doesn’t the same apply to Let The Fire Burn?

One cannot say for certain Osder’s motives for his omission, though it certainly wasn’t out of necessity; Philadelphia burned several blocks of row homes to kill the members of MOVE, begging the question of Osder’s film “how much overkill does it take to get the sympathy of a jaded American audience?”  What is undeniable about Osder’s film is its rightful outrage at the racism of Philadelphia officials and police officers. But Osder’s obvious assumption that an audience, that will inevitably be racially mixed, would side with a militant police force out for blood over a defenseless house full of men, women and children, be they black or white, is a serious mis-step suggesting a more directed political agenda.