fire of love is poised to be the biggest documentary sensation of the summer. It uses stunning archival footage and seductive narration to tell the story of Katia and Maurice Krafft, whose shared obsession with volcanoes fueled a lifelong love affair. The film’s director, Sara Dosa, focused her work on quirky characters who have a particularly vivid relationship with the natural world. (His first feature documentary, 2014 The last seasoncaptured the friendship between a Vietnam veteran and a Cambodian refugee as they hunted wild mushrooms in the Oregon woods.) I had the opportunity to briefly chat with Dosa, who came to her career as a filmmaker in a roundabout way.
OREGON ARTS WATCH: You have a master’s degree in anthropology and international development economics from the London School of Economics. How the hell did you become a documentary filmmaker?
SARA DOSA: It was quite a circuitous route. I thought for a moment that I was going to become a professor of cultural anthropology. However, before going to graduate school, I worked in a documentary production company and was fascinated by making documentary films. When I was pursuing my doctorate, I focused a lot on the anthropology of economics, in particular on meaning and power through economic systems with a critical approach. But I continued to be drawn to the cinema. I felt a bit frustrated with some of what felt like the confines of the academy at the time, and I kept wondering if cinema could be a way to explore these ideas and questions that I had, using a different methodology and communicating in a different way. . When I was in college, I met a wonderful anthropologist named Anna Tsing. His work at this time focused on the mushroom hunting communities of Oregon. I ended up postponing the doctorate. part of my graduate studies, became her research assistant and ended up making my first documentary as a director, The last season.
OAW: How did the Krafft story catch your eye?
SD: I was doing research for the last film I made, which is called The seer and the invisible. It’s an observation film that we shot in Iceland. We wanted to find archival footage of erupting volcanoes, to illustrate the story of when humans first arrived on the volcanic rock that is Iceland. We thought archival footage that looked like it was from another era might help tell that part of the story. Once we started researching, we heard about this lovely French couple who had shot some wonderful footage of erupting volcanoes in Iceland in the 1970s. Once we learned about them as people, not just about this married couple, but about the fact that they had such intriguing personalities and philosophies, that they were so playful, and that they left such a legacy.
We started working on a different project, but that project fell apart during the pandemic, so we thought if we had an archive project during the shutdown, we could keep working. And then once we got our hands on their footage, it was just a dream come true.
OAW: Where did the idea of using Miranda July as the narrator come from? Her voice really brings out the whole story.
SD: At first we thought we wanted a French narrator. But then, in a brainstorming session, one of my executive producers, Greg Boustead, suggested Miranda, and we were all like “Yeah! Miranda is perfect! Her art has inspired me for many years. , from her films to her writing to her performances. She was an artistic guide for me in many ways. We had a nice final draft of the storytelling, but when she agreed to come on the project, it helped shape the writing even more. How would Miranda say that? Where would her cadence be in that sentence? Things like that. She’s so curious, and it was essential that our narrator have a sense of curiosity.
OAW: The film reveals early on that the Kraffts ultimately lost their lives doing what they loved. Was that the plan from the start, or did you consider saving that fact for later in the film?
SD: It’s something we chose to do from the beginning, for several reasons. The first was that if we didn’t reveal this information early on, we feared that the public would be wondering all the time, “How are they going to die?” Is this when they will die? ”, and it could cloud the narrative space with distracting questions. Instead, we wanted to highlight how they lived. It was really essential for us that this film capture their lived philosophy. Another thing is that it was important for the audience to realize that they were watching what the Kraffts left behind. What you see are their remains, their legacy. And a third reason is that the theme of time is so important in the film. The ephemeral nature of a human life in the face of the immensity of geological time. By setting the clock, so to speak, on their own human life, we could draw attention to the fact that time is running out; we could crystallize these existential questions that Katia and Maurice were always asking themselves and that we, as a film crew, were very curious to explore.
OAW: Which documentary filmmakers have inspired you in your work?
SD: It may sound corny, but I would like to say my team! I want to thank my collaborators, because it was such a team effort. So my editors, Erin Casper and Jocelyne Chaput, my producers Shane Boris and Ina Fichman, my ep’s Jessica Harrop and Greg Boustead. It was a wonderful collective effort, and they have a huge influence on me. As for other filmmakers whose work I really like, there is a filmmaker named Nadia Shihab, who made a film a few years ago called Jaddolland, which I find just absolutely exquisite. It’s a very personal story that resonates universally about his relationship with his artist mother, exploring home and identity, loss and love. Any Miranda July fan will appreciate Nadia’s very specific and beautiful voice. She deserves a lot of praise and attention. I would also say that Agnès Varda has always had a huge influence on me, both in her non-fiction work and in her work in fiction. I love her playful style and her thoughts, the observations she makes.
- fire of love currently plays at the Hollywood Theater, Living Room Theaters and other area theaters.