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Film / Let the Fire Burn

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Let the Fire Burn is a 2013 documentary about the roughly decade-long confrontation between the City of Philadelphia and the radical group MOVE, which culminated in the death of all but four of MOVE's members. The film uses only archival footage, ranging from news reports, to previous documentaries, to the hearings held in the wake of the disaster. The only interaction that reminds the viewer it is a documentary are small subtitles explaining minor points in the history of the struggle between MOVE's radical ideology, and the heavy-hand of the Philadelphia Police Department.


This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Angry Black Man: Especially after the death of Life Africa.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • "The police acted with commendable restraint". Smash Cut to a MOVE member surrendering to the police, walking slowly towards the police with no shirt and nothing in his hands, only for three officers to club him the instant he's within arm's reach.
    • "It's not a cult, it's an organization." This is after 45 minutes of MOVE declaring themselves a religion and demanding the same rights as all branches of Christianity.
  • Broken Bird: Birdie Africa was affected by MOVE's treatment of him for years after the destruction of MOVE.
  • Corrupt Cop: It's made very apparent that the Philadelphia PD had few concerns about MOVE's safety during the final confrontation, and were out for revenge for the killing of James Ramp.
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  • Evil Luddite: MOVE's overriding philosophy, focusing on returning to a hunter-gatherer society without science, technology, or medicine. They also have an active webpage.
  • Government Conspiracy: Local level: Members of MOVE believe that Officer James Ramp was killed by friendly fire, and the city has covered it up ever since.
  • Insistent Terminology: According to John Africa, MOVE is, "Not a cult, it's an organization".
  • No Kill Like Overkill: On the part of MOVE and the Philadelphia Police. MOVE built a bunker atop their row house on Osage Ave that covered the entire street, making any approach by police dangerous. In response, the police higher-ups approved the plan to drop the explosives that started the first in 1985.
  • Police Brutality: The Philadelphia police are consistently shown to use violent and unethical means to suppress MOVE which only served to radicalized them more and more. The documentary itself is named for the decision to withhold firefighters from addressing a blaze that the department caused by firebombing the MOVE compound.
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  • Shaped Like Itself: When asked what MOVE's guiding philosophy was, MOVE members constantly answer, "The strategy of John Africa" or "The strategy of life", without going into any real detail. When one reporter lampshades this, one MOVE member points out they don't want to spell out details of their plans in news footage the police will be looking at later.
  • The Messiah: May be combined with Dark Messiah; One MOVE member in archival footage states that John Africa is alike to Jesus Christ in their eyes.


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