BRING YOUR OWN BRIGADE – Documentary Review

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Bring Your Own Brigade is filmmaker Lucy Walker’s courageous and compelling documentary about an extremely hot topic: the ongoing inferno of wildfires in Southern California and elsewhere on the West Coast and, by extension, across the nation. Walker’s eye witness camera captures close up images of the uncontrolled fires cutting through affluent communities in wide paths of devastating destruction. She follows local residents who are fleeing their homes on car-congested bands of blacktop cutting through raging flames and she records up close and personal accounts of survivors whose property was miraculously spared and others who lost all of their worldly goods to the to the rampaging blaze.

Walker doesn’t stop at chronicling the devastation. She investigates, too, asking how we have come to this current and unquenchable crisis. Surprisingly, the biggest blame doesn’t fall to climate change, although that is a factor in the immediate intensity of the frequent outbreaks of wild fire. Experts explain in on camera interviews that fire in forests is a natural phenomenon — mother nature’s way of periodically clearing out overly dense underbrush that impedes healthy growth of large trees with long lifecycles. Historians say that the Native people who inhabited the region pre-colonization knew through observation about the healthy cycle of fire, and lived in harmony with it for centuries. But the Europeans who settled the area were afraid of fire and began doing whatever they could to prevent the natural burn off, thereby disrupting the natural balance. At present, the forests are owned mostly by lumber companies that continue to mismanage the land to an even greater extent. The concept is clear and easy to follow, the detailed science and history that are presented in the documentary are fascinating.

Fortunately, there is also information that provides for hope. But, as you may imagine, this documentary isn’t easy to watch. Even if you know about and have been following the course of wildfires sweeping the West, this film brings the inferno home in a visceral way — you feel the heat and the heartbreak and the horror. Yet, as tough a watch as it is, BRING YOUR OWN BRIGADE is a must see.  It’s a film that can make a difference. Indeed, it must make a difference — because the alternative of continuing on the same path is simply unacceptable.

Bring Your Own Brigade

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