“Detroit’s story has encapsulated the iconic narrative of America over the last century: the Great Migration of African Americans escaping Jim Crow; the rise of manufacturing and the middle class; the love affair with automobiles; the flowering of the American dream; and now… the collapse of the economy and the fading American mythos.

“With its vivid, painterly palette and haunting score, Detropia sculpts a dreamlike collage of a grand city teetering on the brink of dissolution. These soulful pragmatists and stalwart philosophers strive to make ends meet and make sense of it all, refusing to abandon hope or resistance. Their grit and pluck embody the spirit of the Motor City as it struggles to survive postindustrial America and begins to envision a radically different future.” – Caroline Libresco


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The Crash Reel

“The dramatic story of one unforgettable athlete, Kevin Pearce; one eye-popping sport, snowboarding; and one explosive issue, Traumatic Brain Injury. A comeback story with a difference.”

“This eye-popping film seamlessly combines 20 years of stunning action footage with new specially shot verité footage and interviews as it follows US champion snowboarder Kevin Pearce and exposes the irresistible but potentially fatal appeal of extreme sports.”


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carbon nation

carbon nation is an optimistic, solutions-based, non-preachy, non-partisan, big tent film that shows tackling climate change boosts the economy, increases national & energy security and promotes health & a clean environment. The film’s optimism and pragmatism are appealing across the political spectrum. While other good films have been about problems, blame and guilt, carbon nation is a film that celebrates solutions, inspiration and action. We meet a host of entertaining and endearing characters along the way.”

Participant at FiRe 2012: Director Peter Byck


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Notes: Free for all students & teachers as of Fall 2013 (sign up on website)


Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity. Along the way, director-producer Gabriela Cowperthwaite compiles shocking footage and emotional interviews to explore the creature’s extraordinary nature, the species’ cruel treatment in captivity, the lives and losses of the trainers, and the pressures brought to bear by the multi-billion dollar sea-park industry.

“This emotionally wrenching, tautly structured story challenges us to consider our relationship to nature and reveals how little we humans have learned from these highly intelligent and enormously sentient fellow mammals.”


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See Orca Relief’s op-ed on Blackfish:

Birders: The Central Park Effect

Birders: The Central Park Effect reveals the extraordinary array of wild birds who grace Manhattan’s celebrated patch of green and the equally colorful, full-of-attitude New Yorkers who schedule their lives around the rhythms of migration. Acclaimed author Jonathan Franzen, an idiosyncratic trombone technician, a charming fashion-averse teenager, and a bird-tour leader who’s recorded every sighting she’s made since the 1940s are among the film’s cast of characters. Featuring spectacular wildlife footage capturing the changing seasons, this lyrical documentary transports the viewer to a dazzling world that goes all but unnoticed by the 38 million people who visit America’s most famous park each year.”

Producer/Director Jeffrey Kimball: “I became profoundly intrigued by the paradox of nature in an urbanized world. The more I explored this phenomenon, the more aware I became that the scattered patches of green which checkerboard our cities and suburbs are essential to the healthy survival of so many species. It’s really not so surprising that a wonderful wild world exists in the middle of New York City — indeed it exists precisely because the Park is a critical oasis of nature in a vast sea of steel and concrete.

“I hope that this film conveys how a vital piece of nature can exist in the most unlikely of places, and that now, more than ever, we need to make every effort to preserve nature, wherever we find it.”


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Notes: Producer/Director Jeffrey Kimball is on the SNS FiReFilms Steering Committee

Compared to What?

Compared to What? |

Within days of arriving in Congress in 1981, Barney Frank said, “I’ve been like a kid with my nose pressed against the candy store window. If I can stay here for 30 years, my life will be fulfilled.” Frank did stay for 30 years, enriching not just his life, but the lives of all those for whom he fought.

A fresh and contemporary political drama with unparalleled access, Compared to What? provides a look behind the scenes at one of America’s most controversial and captivating public figures. Frank emerges as a true leader, a passionate “Lion of the House” and champion of progressive values, gay rights, and the proper role of government – and who, in the process, finally integrates his private and public lives. A classic American story about a dedicated public servant who never loses hope.

2013 FiRe Featured Film: Pandora’s Promise

The recent reactor meltdowns in Japan have ignited passionate worldwide debate about energy and the future of nuclear power. PANDORA’S PROMISE is a feature-length documentary that explores how and why mankind’s most feared and controversial technological discovery is now passionately embraced by many of those who once led the charge against it. The film is anchored around the personal narratives of a growing number of leading former anti-nuclear activists and pioneering scientists who, in the face of considerable controversy, are directly challenging the anti-nuclear orthodoxy that is a founding tenet of the mainstream environmental movement. Their stories and ideas will be brought to life through a combination of incredible archival footage from 1945 to the present and original filming across the globe.

Operating as history, cultural meditation and contemporary exploration, PANDORA’S PROMISE aims to inspire a serious and realistic debate over what is without question the most important question of our time: how do we continue to power modern civilization without destroying it?


2012 FiRe Featured Film: Chasing Ice

2012 FiRe Featured Film: Chasing Ice

In the spring of 2005, National Geographic photographer James Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment: to capture images to help tell the story of the Earth’s changing climate. Even with a scientific upbringing, Balog had been a skeptic about climate change and a cynic about the nature of academic research. But that first trip north opened his eyes to the biggest story in human history and sparked a challenge within him that would put his career and his very well-being at risk.Chasing Ice is the story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet. Within months of that first trip to Iceland, the photographer conceived the boldest expedition of his life: the Extreme Ice Survey. With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.

As the debate polarizes America and the intensity of natural disasters ramps up globally, Balog finds himself at the end of his tether. Battling untested technology in subzero conditions, he comes face to face with his own mortality. It takes years for Balog to see the fruits of his labor. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. Chasing Ice depicts a photographer trying to deliver evidence and hope to our carbon-powered planet.

UPDATE: Even prior to its fall 2012 theatrical release, as of August 2012 Chasing Ice had won 15 awards, including the Sundance Cinematography Award and a Sundance nomination for Grand Jury Prize, and the SXSW Audience Award. Its theatrical release is scheduled for November 2012 in select theaters.

UPDATE (10/4/2012): The Chasing Ice team is very proud to announce that we have just been awarded Best Documentary at the 22nd Annual Awards of the Environmental Media Association. This honor recognizes the work that Chasing Ice is doing to provide visual evidence of climate change and highlight climate change as one of the most important issues of our time.

View more news about Chasing Ice here.

Participant at FiRe 2012:
James Balog, Photographer
Board of Directors, Earth Vision Trust
Director, Extreme Ice Survey
4780 Sterling Drive, Suite B
Boulder, Colorado 80301
O: (303) 494-1737
C: (303) 888-4211

Extreme Ice Survey is a research affiliate of:

The Institute of Arctic & Alpine Research, University of Colorado
Byrd Polar Research Center, Ohio State University

Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) is a project of Earth Vision Trust (EVT). EVT’s mission is the creation of innovative visual evidence of our impact on ice, air, water, forests, and wildlife. Ten years, a billion people, inspired to change. EVT creates inspirational public installations and educational materials, and keeps James Balog and his team in the field.


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2011 FiRe Film: The Last Mountain

From the website: In the valleys of Appalachia, a battle is being fought over a mountain. It is a battle with severe consequences that affect every American, regardless of their social status, economic background, or where they live. It is a battle that has taken many lives and continues to do so the longer it is waged. It is a battle over protecting our health and environment from the destructive power of Big Coal.The mining and burning of coal is at the epicenter of America’s struggle to balance its energy needs with environmental concerns. Nowhere is that concern greater than in Coal River Valley, West Virginia, where a small but passionate group of ordinary citizens are trying to stop Big Coal corporations, like Massey Energy, from continuing the devastating practice of Mountain Top Removal.

Massive profit allows Big Coal to wield incredible financial influence over lobbyists and government officials in both parties, rewrite environmental protection laws, avoid lawsuits, and eliminate more than 40,000 mining jobs, all while claiming to be a miner’s best friend.

… [A] belief that America was founded on the democratic principal that no individual or corporation owns the air and water and we all share the responsibility of protecting it, drives these patriotic citizens and their supporters from outside of Appalachia, like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., to keep fighting…. The Last Mountain shines a light on America’s energy needs and how those needs are being supplied. It is a fight for our future that affects us all.

UPDATE: The Last Mountain was selected as a 2011 Sundance film and named a New York Times “Critics Pick.” Inspired by the film and its outreach campaign, a growing number of nonprofit and grassroots organizations have joined forces to launch an innovative campaign to promote the film and raise awareness to end mountaintop removal, promote economically viable and sustainable energy solutions, and direct folks to find meaningful ways of staying engaged in the debate. Want to join them? Visit their website here:

Participant at FiRe 2011: Tim Disney, Executive Producer (pictured)


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2010 FiRe Film: Climate Refugees

From The New York Times: “During the shooting of his 2010 documentary Climate Refugees, the Irish-American filmmaker Michael Nash visited nearly 50 countries in about 18 months, interviewing politicians, scientists, health workers and victims of floods, cyclones, hurricanes and droughts.”His conclusion was that short- and longer-term changes in climate are causing vast numbers of people to abandon their jobs, homes and countries to seek better lives elsewhere, or to simply survive….

“Mr. Nash poses a basic question: what will become of the millions of people whose lack of access to food and clean water leads them to take increasingly desperate measures? What type of strains will huge migration put on resources in more developed countries?

“Will this dislocation eventually, as the retired Navy vice admiral Lee Gunn told Mr. Nash, pose a threat to Americans’ national security, too?

“By focusing on the consequences of climate change rather than its scientific causes, some experts suggest that Mr. Nash succeeded in circumventing a divisive political debate over global warming and the extent to which human activity contributes to it.

“‘Whether it’s man or nature causing the climate to change, we still have to deal with islands going under water and people running out of food,’ Mr. Nash said….”

Participants at FiRe 2010: Michael P. Nash, Director; and Stephen Nemeth, Executive Producer