Man on Fire offers a glimpse at life in Grand Saline, Texas, where a white preacher Charles Moore killed himself in 2014.
Moore’s life came to an end in 2014 with an act described as self-immolation. Self-immolation is described as the the killing of one’s self, usually by lighting their self on fire. At the time of his suicide, if you want to call it that, Moore was an elderly white man and it is said that he decided to end his life as a way of protesting the town’s history.
“Our human race is impressed most of all with innocent suffering, and is moved significantly by little else,” Moore wrote in his “suicide” note. “It isn’t important that I be remembered, but that someone cared enough to give up everything for the sake of others.”
Prior to Moore’s death, the community wasn’t keen on having any kind of discussion about their racist history. Like it or not, it’s a discussion that needs to be had. After all, this is the same United States that has seen a number of hate groups on the rise and some of those groups had no problem organizing rallies following the removal of confederate statues during the summer of 2017. Take it from this transgender film critic: if you don’t think the hatred is enabled as a result of the rhetoric from a certain president, you couldn’t be more wrong. The hatred is real and needs to go.
It’s up to the citizens of Grand Saline, Texas, to choose whether or not to accept the history of their community and to come to terms with said history. Moore’s death shouldn’t have to be in vain because of the town’s racist past. The town should be able to come to an understanding about what happened in the past and how they can change going forward.
Directed by Joel Fendelman, Man on Fire is a documentary that manages to pack quite a lot of material into a running time just shy of an hour. The running time of the film is it’s biggest flaw. Fendelman could have done so much more and possible extended the film to a traditional 90 minute length, if not just short. With a running time that falls just shy of an hour, Man on Fire is able to explore the life that Moore lived while also examining the Grand Saline’s dark racist past.
Premiering during the 2018 Slamdance Film Festival, Man on Fire was selected for the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival.