Pirópolis directed by Nicolás Molina
Pirópolis directed by Nicolás Molina

Pirópolis, the fourth film from the Chilean director Nicolás Molina (Gaucho Americano) world premieres in the Documentary Competition at the 23rd edition of the Tribeca Festival, followed by its European premiere at the 31st edition of the Sheffield DocFest, running June 12-17, 2024 in the United Kingdom.

Employing an engrossing vérité narrative, Pirópolis immerses viewers into the director’s residing city, the Chilean port city, through an all-volunteer fire brigade with French ties called the “Pompe France.” The city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the fire brigade find themselves amidst social upheaval as the country is rocked by national protests and a referendum to rewrite the national constitution.

Led by a charismatic captain obsessed with all things French, the fire brigade welcomes a guest from France to help develop new techniques to fight the increasingly intense wildfire season fueled by climate change and the adoption of a monoculture of eucalyptus plants. While a social crisis explodes, the fire company is deployed both to the front lines of the summer wildfire season and to respond to protests.

A bastion of tradition in Chilean society, the longstanding firefighting institution celebrates its historic ties to France, military code, and hierarchy. However, younger generations of firefighters are challenging these outdated values, striving to make the companies more professional and to include new women recruits. “Pompe France” captures a society’s transformation as a microcosm of a polarized nation.

The city of Valparaíso is particularly vulnerable to devastating fires, this past summer in Chile resulted in the loss of 131 lives and the destruction of 12,500 homes. The region’s extensive eucalyptus monoculture, covering vast swathes of land, contributes to biodiversity loss, soil erosion, and water scarcity, while the shallow-rooted eucalyptus trees heighten the risk of landslides. The presence of these monocultures, particularly near impoverished neighborhoods, magnifies the connection between social equity and environmental degradation.

Set in the context of intensifying wildfires around the world, and the Chilean constitutional referendum, the beautiful and haunting cinematography of Pirópolis witnesses the unequal fight against fire in a broken society.

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