IFFBoston ’12 Review: Burn

IFFBoston ’12 Review: Burn

One of my favorite films in my younger years was Backdraft. I mean, what young person didn’t love a movie about firefighters. Firefighters are our local heroes, they ride the iconic red fire truck to save citizens and their homes. I had the opportunity as a High School student to ride along with firefighters for a few days, and one of the first things they told me was that Backdraft, wasn’t very realistic. While they appreciated the publicity, there was nothing real about the way fighting fires was portrayed in the film. What stood out to me so much about this documentary, Burn, was the incredible realism. I walked away feeling like I had spent a year with real firefighters, learning their stories, their struggles, and saw first hand, what its like to be inside a dangerous, frightening fire.

Detroit is infamous for its “rates.” Murder rate, unemployment rate, crime rate, povery rate. Once a vibrant, well-off, well populated city, now, its mostly vacant, and economically suffering. Vacant homes = fires. Some legitimate, but many of the fires are a result of arson. A frightening statistic is given by one of the firefighters in the film, informing us that most of the fires they fight are because of arson, ranging from trying to hurt someone, or trying to have some fun. “A gallon of gas is still cheaper than a movie ticket.” Scary.

We follow a few specific characters, a driver/operator, a young 10 year veteran who suffers a serious injury, and the newly inducted Fire Commissioner. We see the struggles, both at home, and at work, and hear their stories in their own voice.

We learn that the economy just hasn’t taken a toll on the city proper of Detroit, but it has gotten to the point that the firefighters meant to protect the city, don’t even have the equipment they need to do their job. Most trucks are aging, and “stuck together by duct tape and gum.”

For the new Commissioner, his battle is trying to bring his department within budget, and gain the loyalty of the frustrated firefighters within his department.

Denis Leary, Jim Serpico, Brenna Sanchez, Tom Putnam at the IFFBoston 2012 Premiere

So how did the filmmaker Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez get such amazing footage from within the fires? Putnam said during the Q&A following the screening at IFFBoston, “Firefighters make great cameramen.” Using helmet cameras otherwise used in filmin extreme sports, they mounted cameras onto the firefighters helmets, to capture a point-of-view otherwise only seen by the folks on the frontlines of these fires. They did such an amazing job capturing this, all that was missing was the heat and smoke emptying out into the theater.

Burn: One Year on the Front Lines of the Battle to Save Detroit is an amazing documentary that tells an important story. About service, dedication, and the state of affairs within the Fire Department. What we learn about in this film is not just local to Detroit, but an issue that effects many other departments across the country. Executive Produced by Denis Leary and Jim Serpico, the film hopefully has the name attachment it needs to find wider distribution. It is an important film, and I urge you all to seek this one out.

Visit the film’s website to learn more about how you can help.

IFFBoston ’12 Review: Sleepwalk with Me

IFFBoston ’12 Review: Sleepwalk with Me

Sleepwalk with Me is a wonderful, relatable film that is based off the life of co-writer and co-director and star Mike Birbiglia, and adapted from the one-man-show of the same name.

Matt Pandamiglio (Birbiglia), is a struggling comedian, stuck behind a bar serving drinks at a New York City comedy club. His long-time girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose), is supportive, but frustrated with Matt’s unwillingness to move their relationship forward. Given the opportunity to get on stage to tell a few jokes, Matt struggles for a laugh from the audience.

Matt also begins having sleepwalking episodes that grow increasingly dangerous, starting as kicking a hamper he thinks to be a jackal, and jumping off a table.

A chance encounter gets him booked at a comedy club in upstate New York, where he stumbles upon new material, expressing his fears about marriage and commitment to big laughs. So begins Matt’s journey, touring thousands of miles at a time, using his own life and problems as his material.

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IFFBoston ’11 Review: The Future

IFFBoston ’11 Review: The Future

‘The Future,’ is Miranda July’s follow up to her debut film ‘Me and You and Everyone We Know.’ It tells the story of Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater), and their decision to adopt a terminally ill cat named Paw Paw.

Their good intentioned decision is to prevent Paw Paw from being euthanized at the Vet, and for the last six months they believe she’ll live, the pair will give her a happy life. However, it turns out that under good care, Paw Paw could live up to five years. Because of the constant care the cat will need, Sophie and Jason view the adoption of Paw Paw like getting a newborn baby, and quickly become terrified at the idea of losing their freedom. Given 30 days to pick Paw Paw up, they quit their jobs to use the last 30 days of freedom they have to do whatever it is they’ve always wanted to do.

The film deals with a relationships, and the struggles of making something of your life – all through July’s unique voice. The film takes place a world that looks like reality, but has fantastical aspects – we hear the voice of Paw Paw, a t-shirt that has a life of its own, and a Moon that talks.

Sophie and Jason are essentially living a bohemian lifestyle somewhere in Los Angeles, Jason doing tech support and based at home, and Sophie teaching dance to children. Once the two quit their jobs, Sophie decides she’s going to make 30 dances in 30 days that she’ll post on the internet, and Jason takes up the task of going door to door selling trees for a greener city.

Things become complicated when Sophie begins speaking with an older man, taking in the suburbs so to speak – a decision which changes many things between Sophie and Jason as the film moves on.

With July the word ‘auteur’ comes to mind – she has a unique style that if I started watching this film in the middle, I would recognize it as hers. The performances by all the actors can only be described as unique. They don’t necessarily “act” the way normal people do, but in this world, that’s ok.

Technology is featured quite a bit in ‘Future,’ the film opens with the two leads sitting on a couch typing away on their laptops, barely interacting with each other. A little into the film, Sophie cancels their internet, believing that anything they want to accomplish is going to be ruined by it. In the Q & A following the film, a question was asked about her reference to “Facebook” and the way technology is featured in the film. July said that it was important to show technology because it is such an important part of our lives, but she also had to take it away for anything to really happen to the characters.

Surrealist, dark, and emotional, ‘The Future,’ is a wonderful film, that will definitely be seeing a wider theatrical release in the next few months.

Check out some great video from the Q&A here!