Let the Fire Burn 3.0 stars

There is very little to feel good about in this documentary on the disastrous attempt by the City of Philadelphia to forcibly evict members of the black liberation organization MOVE from their row house on Osage avenue in May of 1985. Except maybe this: director Jason Osder’s organizing principle for his astonishing patchwork of found footage – previous docs, local news reports, back-in-the-day interviews, etc. – is a community forum. A gathering of interested parties from all sides, discussing a terrible tragedy and seeking to gain some understanding. It’s something close to the way a civil society ought to work, as opposed to The System against which MOVE moved. Most of the time, Osder’s hand is steady; he’s not about to do your thinking for you. And the disciplined refusal to stray from the documented history provides the story with gripping immediacy. Painful, frightening, sobering, but maybe not quite despairing. 2013.

Matthew Lickona

This movie is not currently in theaters.

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