WHAT YOU GONNA DO WHEN THE WORLD’S ON FIRE (Roberto Minervini, 2018)
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, Francesca Beale Theater, Howard Gilman Theater
144 West 65th St. between Broadway & Amsterdam Aves.
Opens Friday, August 16
Roberto Minervini follows up his Texas Trilogy – The Passage, Low Tide, and Stop the Pounding Heart – with the powerful sociopolitical call to action, What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? The film is shot in sharp, distinctive black-and-white by cinematographer Diego Romero Suarez-Llanos so that it looks like a fictional work from the civil rights era, but it is an all-too-real documentary that shows what’s happening in the US today, even though far too many Americans would deny the inherent realities the movie depicts. Italian-born director Minervini, who is based in the American south, tells four poignant stories steeped in oppression: Judy Hill is struggling to get by, running a bar that has become an important meeting place for the Tremé community while also caring for her elderly mother, Dorothy; Ashlei King hopes that her young sons, fourteen-year-old Ronaldo King and nine-year-old Titus Turner, come back safe after going out to play in a junkyard; Mardi Gras Indian Chief Kevin Goodman melds black and Native American traditions in changing times; and Krystal Muhammad and the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense protest the killings of two African American men at the hands of police.
Beautifully edited by Marie-Hélène Dozo, the film, which was shot in Louisiana and Mississippi in the summer of 2017, captures the continuing results of institutionalized, systemic racism and income inequality in the United States. “We’ve been set free, but we’re still being slaves,” Judy Hill proclaims. “Nowadays, people don’t fight; they like to shoot,” Ronaldo teaches Titus. What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? is the kind of film that should be widely seen, including in schools around the country, to highlight the everyday impact of racial injustice. There are no confessionals in the film, no so-called experts discussing socioeconomic issues; instead, it’s real people, struggling to survive and fighting the status quo and America’s failure to effectively face and deal with its original sin. The most controversial section involves the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense, the members of which march through town declaring, “Black power!” When they face off against the police, they make some arguable choices, but what’s most important is what has taken place to even put them in that situation. There’s a good reason why the title, What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire?, is framed as a question, one that every one of us should look in the mirror and answer for ourselves.
A selection of the New York Film Festival and numerous other festivals, What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? opens August 16 at Lincoln Center, with Minervini participating in Q&As with Hill and Muhammad on August 16-17 at 3:30, and Minervini will introduce the 9:00 screening on August 16 with Hill and the 6:00 screening on August 17 with Hill and Muhammad. There will also be a reception after the 6:00 and 9:00 screenings on August 16.