A Fierce Green Fire Burns Unevenly


As the human footprint widens, the movements lumped under “environmentalism” grow ever more varied, which makes a far-reaching documentary about the environmentalist movement—detailing a history from its inception to the present day—a wildly ambitious undertaking. Yet this is the task documentarian Mark Kitchell has assumed in A Fierce Green Fire. Omnidirectional, A Fierce Green Fire covers Stewart Brand, Aldo Leopold, John Muir, and Teddy Roosevelt—all in the first five minutes. From there, Kitchell and his talking heads tackle the growth of environmentalism in the U.S., the travails of Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, environmental catastrophes in Love Canal and the Brazilian rainforest, and of course climate change, among other topics. The film contains some compelling moments—the argument that Richard Nixon may have done more for the environment than President Obama is rather alarming, and the Love Canal section effectively puts a human face onto the otherwise abstract statistical toll of disastrous pollution. But there’s no consistent narrative thread to carry the film from start to finish, and A Fierce Green Fire fails to open any singular intellectual or psychological point of investigation. By cramming into 100 minutes material that requires at least a miniseries to be appropriately addressed, Kitchell has made his storytelling task incredibly difficult.