Underwire Films

Fire Tower Trailer: Documentary Observes the Eyes in the Sky

Tova Krentzman's Yukon-shot film to premiere at Hot Docs

3 mins read

“We’re the first point of contact for a smoke,” says one of the lookouts in Fire Tower. The documentary directed, produced, and written by Tova Krentzman is set to have its world premiere in the Canadian Spectrum at Hot Docs this year.

Fire Tower follows several brave people who keep a watchful eye over Canada’s woodlands from above. Featuring a character-driven approach and sweeping aerial views across the Yukon Territory, Fire Tower shows the important work that the lookouts endeavour as they scan the horizon for smoke signals and signs of wildfires.

The film also considers the scale at which fire towers are being decommissioned at a time when the Canadian landscape has increasing incidents of forest fires.

Fire Tower marks Krentzman’s first documentary as a director. The project won the jury prize for production funding at the 2022 Available Light Film Festival in Whitehorse. Krentzman previously made the short dramas Harashama, Tachlis, and Verbum Expedimus. She has also worked extensively as a photographer and brings a striking eye to the documentary as noted in the first images of the trailer. Fire Tower premieres at Hot Docs on April 29.

Watch the trailer for Fire Tower below


Synopsis: Fire Tower is a character-driven documentary with dramatic landscapes, intense conditions and far-out stories – akin to astronauts and lighthouse keepers. Perched in the Rocky Mountains and above empty expanses across the Yukon, we meet the people behind the binoculars. They all experience the rush of spotting smokes and pre-empting evacuations.

They all take pride in protecting the land and its people. They have all been struck by lightning.

Tower lookouts remind us that climate change and technology are encroaching on all our lives and livelihoods. For more than a century, they have been the dedicated “eyes in the sky”, a critical first-line of defence. Today, despite the unprecedented number of wildfires, there are only three provinces that continue to employ human radar. How can they compete with fleets of drones, satellites and cell phones?

The best way to stop a fire is to spot it early. Lookouts are still critical anchors in our fire safety networks. When lightning strikes, they can flag a wisp of smoke 60 miles away and interpret its intensity in shades of grey, ahead of infrared imagery. Within minutes, they can radio other responders to mobilize their planes, helicopters and equipment before forests become matchsticks that devastate communities.

Beyond the action, gazing out from their towers also grants the lookouts telling moments of introspection. In our hyper-connected, multi-tasking world, Fire Tower invites us to contemplate how solitude can inspire a different kind of connection with nature, community and our own creativity.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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