Fire of Love: Bring On The Heat and Light

By C.J. Hirschfield

July 8, 2022

National Geographic and Neon hope that you’ll come for the volcanoes and stay for the love story. And you most definitely should.  “In this world lived a fire; and in this fire, two lovers found a home.” Jeesh.

What are the odds of two scientists, obsessed with volcanoes, falling in love and then travelling the world for decades in an attempt to get as close as possible to the most dangerous, active eruptions?  The delightfully original new documentary Fire of Love recently screened as part of both the SFFilm Festival and DocLands following its triumphant launch at Sundance. And now it will be released in theaters on the big screen July 6.

It tells their story and boy is it a doozy. So you won’t think of this as a spoiler, it is only five minutes into the film when we learn how their story tragically ends.

But in the new documentary from the Bay Area director Sara Dosa, there is much education and celebration along the way. Maurice and Katia Krafft left behind samples, thousands of photographs, words, hundreds of hours of footage, “and a million questions.” The film effectively utilizes their own, and others’ archival footage and photographs.

We learn that red volcanoes (picture crimson lava flowing to the sea in Hawaii) are “friendly,” while gray ones “are the killers, the explosive ones.” The couple chose to devote their lives to the latter. The footage in the film, mostly shot by Maurice, is breathtakingly spectacular. The power, beauty, and terror inspired by volcano eruptions is on full display here, and it is absolutely mesmerizing.

But back to the love story; Katia and Maurice’s could not be a more compelling. At a young age, her first volcano crush was Mt. Etna, his was Mt. Stromboli. The two partners are both attractive, smart and funny, and we’re treated to much footage that lets us know them better.

Katia and Maurice Krafft are seated for an interview in their home in Alsace, France. (Credit: INA)

She’s a geological chemist; he’s a geologist. He’s the more daring, with a wish to canoe on a lava river (unrealized), and to venture into an acid lake in a rubber dinghy (abandoned mid-trip ). Together, it’s estimated that the couple investigated 150-170 volcanoes. The film documents how they built their media brand, with books, films and lecture tours in order to finance their journeys.

The narration and editing are quirky and fun, much as the lives of the scientists themselves.

“Understanding is love’s other name.” “Katia is like a bird; he’s like an elephant seal.” The playful editing includes a segment that sets dramatic eruptions to inspirational music, much like a traditional fireworks display

Clearly the filmmaker doesn’t want to focus on the inevitable—and sad—ending, and the effort is successful. The story of this couple, so brilliantly matched, who consciously decided against having a family in favor of pursuing their passion, completely aware of the potential danger, is one for the ages.

Later in their careers, the Kraffts worked with governments around the world to call for warning systems that could help prevent catastrophic deaths and devastation.

Their work made a difference, and they chose to live their lives on their own terms. Regarding his work, Maurice said “It will kill me someday, but that doesn’t bother me at all. I prefer an intense and short life to a monotonous long one.” Katia: “We can’t imagine living any other way.”

Katia and Maurice Krafft, in blue winter jackets, gaze upon a volcano in the distance as smoke, steam and ash swirl behind them. (Credit: Image’Est)

After a 300-year slumber, Mt. Unzen awoke in Japan in 1991, a gray volcano that proved to be as unpredictable as the Kraffts knew them to be. The film is dedicated to the 43 people—including the Kraffts—who lost their lives in the eruption.

At the end of the day, Fire of Love is an inspirational, if nontraditional, love story that leaves us in awe of both the power of nature, and the dedication of those who devote their lives to educating us on the subject.

Katia Krafft wearing an aluminized suit standing near a lava burst at Krafla Volcano, Iceland. (Credit: Image’Est)

Fire of Love opens in theaters starting Friday, July 6. The showings locater site isn’t very helpful as it is not complete and it takes you to theater websites that often require searching. It is worth the search. See it on the BIG SCREEN. 

Fire of Love Neon website

Fire of Love National Geographic website

Sandbox Films website

Sara Dosa is an Indie Spirit Award-nominated director and Peabody award-winning producer whose interests lay in telling character-driven stories about the human relationship to ecology and economy. Her first feature as a director, THE LAST SEASON, which tells the story of two former soldiers turned wild mushroom hunters. Dosa directed an Emmy nominated episode of the Netflix music docu-series REMASTERED about Johnny Cash’s 1970 concert for Richard Nixon; the feature documentary THE SEER & THE UNSEEN and has produced the Peabody and Emmy nominated SURVIVORS about Ebola in Sierra Leone; co-produced AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER and THE EDGE OF DEMOCRACY; and, produced Peabody award-winning AUDRIE & DAISY. In 2018, DOC NYC named Dosa to the inaugural “40 under 40” class of documentary filmmakers to watch. She graduated from Wesleyan University with a joint Masters in Anthropology and International Development Economics from the London School of Economics & Political Science. Sara’s Linkedin

                       

Upcoming Q&As

New York

Angelika Film Center | New York City| 7/6 | 7PMQ&A with Director, Producer and Co-Writer Sara Dosa and Editor and Co-Writer Erin CasperModerated by Bilge Ebiri

Angelika Film Center | New York City| 7/7 | 7PMQ&A with Director, Producer and Co-Writer Sara Dosa and Editor and Co-Writer Erin CasperModerated by Alissa Wilkinson

Los Angeles

AMC Sunset | Los Angeles | 7/8 | 7PM
Q&A with Director, Producer and Co-Writer Sara Dosa and Producer and Co-Writer Shane Boris
Moderated by Katie Walsh

AMC Sunset | Los Angeles | 7/9 | 7PM
Q&A with Director, Producer and Co-Writer Sara Dosa 
Moderated by Claudia Puig

San Francisco

AMC Kabuki | San Francisco | 7/11 | 7:15 PM

Q&A with Director, Producer, and Co-Writer Sara Dosa, and Editor Jocelyne Chaput

Moderator Allen Johnson

Alamo New Mission | San Francisco | 7/12 | 6:45 PM

Q&A with Director, Producer, and Co-Writer Sara Dosa, and Editor Jocelyne Chaput

Moderator Randy Myers

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C.J. Hirschfield retired after 17 years as Executive Director of Children’s Fairyland, where she was charged with the overall operation of the nation’s first storybook theme park. Prior to that, she served as an executive in the cable television industry where she produced two series, ran San Francisco’s public access channel and advocated on behalf of the industry. A former writer for Film Month, she also penned a weekly column for the Piedmont Post for 13 years and now writes features and reviews for EatDrinkFilms. C.J. holds a degree in Film and Broadcasting from Stanford University.

Hirschfield currently serves on the programming team for the Appreciating Diversity Film series showing free documentaries in Oakland and Piedmont, as well as on the advisory board of Youth Beat, a youth media training program that provides low-income Oakland students with the tools and opportunities they need to thrive in today’s workforce.

C.J. says, “A good documentary takes us places we never could never have imagined, and changes the way we see the world.”

Meet Director Sara Dosa

 

 

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