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John D. Barnett
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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.Written by
This documentary is insanely, incredibly affecting - and I'm someone who is often critical of overly biased documentary features. This one is a triumph of editing; I hope more documentaries attempt what the filmmakers pulled off here, in terms of not having a narrator or talking heads and focusing exclusively on archival footage - including, most notably, footage from an investigative commission that was held in the wake of the 1985 standoff.
This is one of those stories that not enough people know about; it seems to have weirdly dissolved into history, despite the fact that three city blocks were completely firebombed in Philly, by its own police force. The fact that the documentary does not talk down to the viewer, or cake itself in sanctimony, is practically revelatory. This film is cold and hard. It tells the truth. It offers no easy answers about how to move forward. It'll probably ruin the rest of your day. But it really must be seen.
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