Film Review: Bring Your Own Brigade

STUDIO: Topic Studios/CBSN | DIRECTOR: Lucy Walker
SPECS: R | 119 min. | Documentary

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie 

British director Lucy Walker (Waste Land) has a self-described “obsession” with wildfires and upon her move to Los Angeles she embedded herself with local firefighters on the deadliest day of fires in California history. From this harrowing experience comes the searing documentary Bring Your Own Brigade.

In early November 2018, raging wildfires forced the frantic evacuation of thousands of terrified residents from the cities of Malibu and Paradise. The fires swept through the towns so quickly that many were left trying to protect their homes themselves, which one person equates to “fighting an elephant with a piece of spaghetti,” just as others were trapped in their cars on congested streets surrounded by hell on earth. There’s no escaping an intense feeling of claustrophobic horror as Walker blends her stunning, and equally terrifying, wildfire footage with videos captured by survivors.

The film then moves beyond the shock and awe to begin a compelling investigation into why these catastrophic wildfires are increasing in number and severity around the world and what can be done to lessen the staggering death and destruction they cause. Walker provides thought provoking commentary as she learns that there are many factors in play beyond simply climate change. Through affecting personal interviews with town residents, firefighters and scientists (a few more identifiers could have helped keep track of all the talking heads), the film reveals there are often simple procedures that can be taken to mitigate the devastation. But many–including the city council of Paradise–aren’t willing put aside short-term interests and outmoded thinking to take the steps that are necessary.

In 2020, Ron Howard examined similar ground with Rebuilding Paradise. Bring Your Own Brigade now makes a great bookend to the exploration around this burning societal issue.

About Janine

Janine is a dedicated fan of the 1940 film Kitty Foyle, directed by Sam Wood, written by Dalton Trumbo and starring Ginger Rogers, who won an Oscar for her portrayal. And seeing that film is all it took to make her a lifelong movie lover. Janine is excited to add her insights to the great team at