Sundance 2021: Lucy Walker’s documentary explores how humans impact wildfires by how we prepare for and respond to them
Wildfires have simply become a part of Californians’ new, climate-altered reality. But for London-expat filmmaker Lucy Walker, she had a feeling that there’s more to the fires than just hotter, drier weather. Her search led to the documentary “Bring Your Own Brigade,” which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
“I lived in London and New York previously, and we’ve solved open fires some time ago, so it was a shock when I came here and the hills were on fire and the ash would rain down on you and smoke was in your nostrils,” Walker said at TheWrap’s Sundance Studio presented by National Geographic and NFS.
In many respects, “Bring Your Own Brigade,” was Walker’s way of presenting what she learned about the many human-caused factors behind the worsening wildfires. It’s not just climate change. It’s also how human beings, their government and special interests have changed our relationship to nature, from houses and developments encroaching further into areas susceptible to wildfires to clear-cutting tactics in the logging industry to a sheer lack of firefighters to combat the increasing number of fires every summer and fall, leading California to turn to prisoners to combat the wildfires for minimal pay.
But Walker didn’t want the film to become a didactic explanation of science and policy, so she worked to make the people suffering the worst and most direct effects of the fires at the center of the story, especially the firefighters who find themselves increasingly overwhelmed as they try to protect hillside homes from fires that are spreading faster than ever.
“I really want to make character-driven, compelling films that are cinematic experiences,” she said. “I was really wanting this to a film exploration, and I think it’s suitable for a film exploration because there are so many ways this can be explained in an audio/visual medium. I was just obsessed with fire and trying not to make a talking heads movie which I never wanted to make.”
Watch the full interview with Lucy Walker in the clip above.
TheWrap’s Sundance Studio is presented by National Geographic and NFS.
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