Burn (NR)

Drama 10 December 31, 1969
By Kristina Bravo
In this lively and affecting documentary, filmmakers Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez show that Detroit is burning. Literally. The production captures a year in the life of the firefighters of Engine Company 50, the busiest in the nation, where a cardboard display of the mugshots of local arsonists could very well be a chart of America's most notorious. As much as Putnam and Sanchez frame the firefighters as tough and relentless, the directors dig deeper with the help of home videos and personal photographs, telling three individual narratives: a 33-year Detroit Fire Department veteran getting ready to retire; a young, once thrill-seeking firefighter handicapped by an on-duty injury; and a newly appointed fire commissioner gaining unpopularity among his own people. Burn at times resembles a scenic car commercial, complete with brand logo and sun roof zoom-ins (General Motors seems to be a sponsor). However this is only apt. With its 25 percent population decline and 29 percent unemployment, the Motor City, our modern-day burning Rome, can only rise again through the residents and companies that not just ride out but fight the storm. By the end of Burn, DFD veteran Dave Parnell is now retired, but only after Gloria, his wife of 35 years, has passed. He says, almost as jovial as he was in the beginning, "It's different, but it's gonna be good." Burn, at the very least, is as persuasive an American car commercial if there ever was one.
Patrick Jolley, Reynold Reynolds Steve Kondats, Heike Bartels, Ed Norris, Charissa Harrison, Patrick Jolley