HotDocs ’24: Fire Tower

Directed by Tova Krentzman, Fire Tower brings the viewer 100 feet above the boreal forest into American lookout towers. Tasked with detecting wildfires before they cause too much damage, these reclusive servants maintain a solitary vigil as they stand quietly against the forces of nature.

Ultimately, the heat of Fire Tower is the honour that it bestows upon its subjects. Through her conversations with them, Krentzman keeps the focus on the sacrifices that they make simply to do the job at all. Stepping into the lookout for hours on end over months at a time, these lookouts take their lives (and their mental health) into their hands on a daily basis. For the sake of the job, many of forfeited relationships, family and more as they keep a steady vigil over the natural terrain. Working in the tower is a lonely profession and it takes a toll on them.

But, at the same time, it’s that commitment that keeps Krentzman’s work so fascinating. Although they receive little recognition, Tower shows the determination of these quiet heroes to battle the danger. With every shift, they fight through their personal issues for the sake of saving lives. By shining a spotlight upon them, Krentzman highlights their bravery and points to the good that can be done by ordinary people when they take responsibility for others. 

What’s more, Tower also explores the power of their isolation. Despite their seclusion—or, maybe, because of it—these men and women have been able to look within themselves and wrestle with their own inner demons. Their time alone provides opportunities for self-reflection, personal change and even inspiration. (“The level of aloneness teaches you that being bored is so essential for creativity,” we’re told.) For them, there’s power in the loneliness that gives them life. And that adds something special to their time in the Tower.

Fire Tower is playing at HotDocs’ 24. For more information, click here.

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