When documentaries help to understand forest fires

We are now witnessing a new age of forest fires, more intense and devastating than ever before. The documentaries produced in collaboration with experts and with an approach that includes local communities are helping this phenomenon to be better understood in a context of climate change. Enric Castelló, researcher at the Department of Communication Studies (URV), coordinated a round table with filmmakers, journalists and experts in which they discussed the issue and commented international cases and experiences.

The round table was part of the session entitled “Fire on the screen: media, cinema and video storytelling” in the framework of the 1st International Congress on Fire in the Earth Systems: Humans and Nature, held in Valencia between 3 and 7 November. The congress brought together experts and researchers in forest fires from diverse countries and a wide range of different disciplines. Among the participants were Lucy Walker, twice nominated for an Oscar and director of the documentary Bring your own brigade; Patrick Ryan, an expert consultant and documentalist who has undertaken projects such as Knysna Fires 2017 in South Africa; Josh Edelson, a specialised photo journalist and recent winner of the Covering Climate Now Journalism Award (2021) for Heart of Fire; and Eduard Plana, a forest engineer from the Centre de Tecnologia Forestal de Catalunya and co-author of various guides on fire communication.

These professionals exchanged opinions with expert engineers, geologists and environmentalists who focus their research on providing greater insight into phenomena such as the megafires that have raged in regions such as California, South Africa, Australia, and the Mediterranean basin. The session, which closed the online section of the congress, highlighted the importance of the audio-visual documentary for disseminating scientific and technical knowledge. As Enric Castelló pointed out, “We are in a new era in which fires must be approached by the media in all their complexity. The debate during the Congress suggests that documentaries, journalism and communication are more necessary than ever.”

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