‘Burning’ Review: Pulling the Fire Alarm in Australia

If you think what climate change means for America is scary, wait until you hear about Australia. That’s the essence of “Burning,” which focuses on the country’s sadly familiar experiences with rising temperatures: horrific bushfires, politicians exercising drills, and activists desperately trying to save us all by pointing to the realities of the future.

The biggest difference is that it is the largest of Australia’s fires: More than 50 million acres burned during the so-called “Black Summer” (2019-20), dwarfing losses in California or the Amazon. Director Eva Orner (“Chasing Asylum”) makes her contribution to climate change documentaries by staying true to Australia and highlighting the instinctive impact on Australians. It’s like hell: red skies and dark days, fear and despair, pregnancy complications and death.

Orner’s flood of talking heads and images from the field (including besieged natives and sickly koalas) turns into a drum of anxiety—righteous, frankly, but numbing. The movie also features Lucy Walker’s alarming “complimentary look at climate change,” compared to a more complex and stimulating look.Bring Your Own BrigadeBut young activist Daisy Jeffrey provides this film with a smart rebel leader against Australian prime minister Scott Morrison and his coal-friendly politics.

Like many environmental doctors, Orner holds a potential savior (a tech billionaire driving renewable resources) and a prelapsarian vision (Aboriginal stewardship of the land before coming to Europe). Her movie is one of a series of distress signals to the world in hopes that Australia doesn’t become a continent-sized Cassandra.

Not rated. Duration: 1 hour 26 minutes. Watch on Amazon.

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