Burning is the latest documentary from filmmaker Eva Orner, an acclaimed documentarian who has covered subjects within Australia like the awful treatment of asylum seekers in Chasing Asylum as well as producing many well-received works like Taxi to the Dark Side.
Now she explores the 2019-20 Australian bushfire season with her latest project. Burning is not so much a documentary in the sense that it explores both sides/arguments of the problem but a compelling feat of storytelling, a roaring cry for help as well as a middle finger to the Australian government. On that note, Burning succeeds with flying colours.
Orner interviews several individuals of many generations including a fire chief who has been through many horrific bushfire seasons including Ash Wednesday and Black Saturday; a teenage activist who is fighting for the voice of young Australians to save Australia’s future as well as the victims of the bushfires themselves.
She also peppers the film with mobile phone videos from various townspeople who were battling the fires, startling statistics highlighting the damage the bushfires has caused, and the political disregard for what has happened. Footage shown includes embarrassing moments from Prime Minister Scott Morrison arguing in Parliament the case for using coal. The complacency of the government failing to acknowledge climate change with regards to the bushfires is highlighted.
The exploration of the subject matter could have been seen as sentimental and preachy but Orner has solid storytelling chops that make the exploration of the chronicle of the bushfires immersive and rousing in its escalation.
The stories the victims tell of their experience with the bushfires are incredibly harrowing. One example includes a pregnant mother who had to give birth to her child via c-section because the smoke from the bushfires the mother breathed in kilometres away had done severe damage to their well-being. One wishes that Orner had more points of view from the indigenous community in the film though as the film does point out and acknowledge Aboriginal land and yet features no interviewees in relation of any kind.
Overall, Burning is an enraging documentary that is must-see essential viewing; providing a clear view on the consequences of inaction toward climate change, a heartfelt look at the people who fight against it and a middle finger towards the Australian government. Highly recommended.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Burning screened as part of this year’s Toronto Film Festival and will be streaming on Prime at an undetermined date.