Opening 23 Jul 2020
In the summer of 2017, director Roberto Minervini documented the lives of African Americans living in the American South. Following various individuals including a bar owner and her handyman, two young boys, and the New Black Panther Party, the film tries to encapsulate the general tension and feelings of the Black community at the time.
Slow and contemplative with a stark black and white photography, What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? struggles to find its place as it meanders through different vignettes. While the audience is able to feel the suffocation that envelopes the community, the film lacks a sense of time and place and character as it meanders from person to person and location to location, never really settling down long enough to let the full weight of its subject sink in. Maybe the point was to merely evoke a general sense of understanding of the tragedy that is life as an African American in America in the mid-2010’s, but I couldn’t help but wish for something a little more focused and humanizing. Undoubtedly, this will be a powerful piece to some, but with a pace that creeps along evoking emotions without delving deep enough into analysis, it is neither truly accessible or impactful enough to make a splash with larger audiences. (Rose Finlay)