Our Documentary ‘A Fire Inside’
A Searing Look At What Bushfires Leave Behind
As our documentary A Fire Inside lays out with eerie clarity, in the midst of the catastrophic 2019/2020 bushfires, volunteer firefighter Nathan Barnden did what, to him, seemed like the only thing to do.
He suited up, steeled himself against the flames, and saved a family whose home, and life, was being burnt down to ash.
It was only when Barnden returned from that act of heroism that he got the news: his uncle and his cousin had perished in the flames.
Barnden’s story is just one of many told in A Fire Inside, a humane exploration of great courage in the face of utter devastation that played to packed crowds at the 2021 Sydney Film Festival. Yet it is emblematic of directors Justin Krook and Luke Mazzaferro’s true focus — not just the flames themselves, but what those flames left behind.
Though A Fire Inside opens with footage that defined the news cycle of that cataclysmic bushfire season, it spends most of its running time going deeper; looking closer. It is an exploration of what we hold in a handful of ash, a moving look at the interior lives of those who risked everything, and who found themselves profoundly altered.
There is, for instance, the story of Brendon O’Connor, a volunteer firefighter like Barnden, who stared into the heart of the flames, and who came out d unable to return to the life of quiet domesticity that he had shared with his wife of some two decades.
The documentary unpeels the quiet stoicism of these men, and reveals the scope of the wounds that made it curiously impossible for them to return to the ways things used to be. The world might have moved on, but these men found that they could not.
A Fire Inside is not just one long horror story. What emerges from these tales of the great, almost invisible cost of heroism, is a sense of resilience; of hope. Not just in the ways that communities came together, rallying against the fires while driven by love for those they had lived alongside for years.