Netflix sleeper: Let the Fire Burn, a doc about the 1985 MOVE debacle

It’s interesting to watch a documentary about an event I remember reading about in the news. Invariably my perceptions of the event are revealed as superficial and colored by my own biases. So it was with “Let the Fire Burn,” a 2013 documentary produced and directed by Jason Osder and now available on Netflix I.V. The film covers the city of Philadelphia’s action to evict the group MOVE, a kind of back-to-nature urban charismatic cult, from a neighborhood row house, which resulted in the deaths of everyone in the house, including innocent children, and a raging fire that destroyed over 60 neighborhood homes. Comprised entirely of found footage, Let the Fire Burn doesn’t seem to want to foist conclusions on the viewer, aside from the obvious one that bombing a home and letting it burn while you know there are children inside is a craven, immoral law enforcement tactic. This film, along with Waco: The Rules of Engagement should be compulsory viewing for anyone in government tasked with confronting a messianic cult. Rule #1: when a group is predicated on the belief that the rest of the world is against them, don’t fuel their paranoia and sense of persecution. MOVE was far from blameless, but it’s easy to believe they became much more radicalized in response to violent, heavy-handed treatment as directed by the city government and police than they would have had they been left alone.