Direction, cinematography, editing: Aaron Dylan Kearns
Genre: Experimental documentary, video nonfiction
Release Date: December 14, 2019
The third installment in my Seasons series, following Hard Drive (Summer 2018) and Factory Dream (Fall 2018).
Not long after we moved to our current apartment, an abandoned house next door to the building went up in flames. We were already somewhat concerned about the house as it was empty and looked like possibly an inherited estate that had been left to sit untended. We were alert to such things as the apartment building I grew up in had been set fire to, in 2004, by a serial arsonist who was targeting older apartment buildings in Midtown. Some of the fires were late at night, and residents were lucky as they all escaped.. We were fortunate as the arsonist set fire to the front stairwell in our building, between the second and third floors (which turned out to be his modus operandi), during the afternoon, so it was pretty quickly caught and no one was harmed. (A key was required to enter and we don't know how he got in.) The arsonist set about a dozen fires, terrorizing people for several months, and was caught not longer he attacked our building. He urned out to be a taxi driver, former police officer, who had already been in prison previously for selling drugs that had been collected for evidence. He intentionally targeted some of the buildings, while others he said he set fire to because he was mad. One building he set fire to because of his animosity toward Georgia Tech students, and another one because of his animosity toward Jewish people. Our building neighored a building on the historic registry that had supplied housing for Jewish refugees after World War II. We don't know if that was the reason for his setting fire to our building or what.
This fire, in a house neighboring but across the street from us, started sometime after midnight and continued until near dawn. None of the area's residents who gathered heard anything about the source of the fire but we were wondering if it was possibly a homeless person trying to stay warm, as it was in January, and were relieved that the house was found to be empty. Then several days later, the fire engines arrived again, toward the middle of the night. This fire was not so complex, and as it was relatively quickly put out, I asked one of the firefighters if they knew the source. He revealed that the fires were done by a an arsonist, the source of both fires being traced back to a couch in the attic. From what I could gather, the arsonist was never caught, though the fires did stop after the second incident. The house was boarded up and now is just a target for grafitti.
This film was my documentation of the first fire that occurred. It lasted long enough that many of the people from around our block gathered around to watch. It ended up being the way that I met most of my neighbors. The whole block ended up smelling like smoked ribs for weeks.
This film is an exception in that my other work all has music set to it, typically music that I have composed, but after some months of deliberation I decided to let the natural soundtrack stand.