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On May 13, 1985, Philadelphia police dropped two pounds of military explosives onto a city row house occupied by the radical group MOVE. The resulting fire was not fought for over an hour although firefighters were on the scene with water cannons in place. Five children and six adults were killed and sixty-one homes were destroyed by the six-alarm blaze, one of the largest in the city's history. This dramatic tragedy unfolds through an extraordinary visual record previously withheld from the public. It is a graphic illustration of how prejudice, intolerance and fear can lead to unthinkable acts of violence. 

Jason Osder makes an impressive feature film debut through his unbiased and thorough account of the incidents leading up to and during the 1985 standoff between the extremist African-American MOVE organization and Philadelphia authorities. “Let the fire burn” were the fateful words that may or may not have been spoken by one Philadelphia authority on an intense and confusing day that destroyed a community. Documenting the personal stories of neighborhood residents, MOVE members and officials through extensive archival footage of court hearings, news broadcasts, home movies and interviews, Osder leaves no stone unturned, save the first one cast. 

The structure of the film follows the same crescendo as the dramatic clash that claimed eleven lives and literally and figuratively devastated an entire community, taking viewers on the same tumultuous ride as those directly involved. The angst of the MOVE organization, the fear of the community and the confusion of authorities all reach a boiling point as emotions overpower reason. A real-life Wild West story without the luxury of identifying its heroes by the color of their hats, the film admirably demonstrates that sometimes no amount of known fact can help us understand the complexities of our psyche. 

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