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Let the Fire Burn — Coming to George Mason University March 19, 2014

posted by Nell Minow

“In the masterfully crafted Let the Fire Burn, viewers are thrown back into a time that seems both ancient and wrenchingly immediate, when mutual fear, suspicion and misunderstanding combusted in a grievous, literally fatal, explosion.”

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

The GMU FAMS Visiting Filmmakers Series welcomes Let the Fire Burn and director Jason Osder to the Johnson Center Cinema on March 19, 7:30pm


The astonishingly gripping Let the Fire Burn is that rarest of cinematic objects: a found-footage film that unfurls with the tension of a great thriller. On May 13, 1985, a longtime feud between the city of Philadelphia and controversial radical urban group MOVE came to a deadly climax. By order of local authorities, police dropped military-grade explosives onto a MOVE-occupied rowhouse. TV cameras captured the conflagration that quickly escalated — and resulted in the tragic deaths of eleven people (including five children) and the destruction of 61 homes. It was only later discovered that authorities decided to “…let the fire burn.” Using only archival news coverage and interviews, first-time filmmaker Osder has brought to life one of the most tumultuous and largely forgotten clashes between government and citizens in modern American history.


“The events of 1985 feel strangely far away, yet also incongruous within their own era,” writes the New York Times‘ Nicolas Rapold, “as remnants of earlier radicalism in the age of Reagan. And, in that sense, Mr. Osder’s use of found footage is well suited. We are spoiled by the sea of archival oddity available online today, but the filmmakers rapidly plunge us into the madness through the double shock of the footage, which offers at once a formal rupture and something familiar.”

Let the Fire Burn won the Truer Than Fiction Award and a $25,000 Spirit Grant at the Spirit Awards in Los Angeles on 11 January 2014. It was a finalist for the Gotham Awards Best Documentary, and has won editing awards from the International Documentary Association and Cinema Eye Honor for Nonfiction Filmmaking.

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