Chronicling one year in the lives of a group of Detroit firefighters, Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez's doc Burn captures the danger (and, yes, excitement) of putting out blazes, as well as the futility of dousing flames in a city rife with arson—and the struggles to maintain adequate funding in a wrecked economy that hits the public sector hardest. As such, the film provides a multitiered view of one municipal institution in a deeply troubled town, cutting from the men as they go into action (frequently set to the music of those Detroit legends, the Stooges) or hang around the firehouse, to the new fire commissioner and his controversial plan to simply let vacant buildings burn. As the latest in a series of docs tracing the declining fortunes of the Motor City, Putnam and Sanchez's film offers no unexpected revelations, but by bringing an intimate focus to the inner workings of an institution whose importance has grown inversely to its funding levels, the filmmakers encapsulate the tragedy of the once-thriving metropolis. And in the emptiness facing a pair of firefighters forced to give up their gigs (one due to injury, the other retirement), the film brings home the sad flip side of the firefighters' dedication: the sense of total, indelible identification with the job.
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