A documentary about the 2019-2020 bushfires in Australia. Delving into the lives of the locals impacted and the affect it has had on the environment around them. In this documentary we explore the life of people that have been affected by Black Summer, the 2019-2020 Australian bushfires.

Directors: Hagyung Koo Writers: Hagyung Koo Cinematography: Hagyung Koo

Although the term has been a blanketed warning of the fire season in Australia, one of the most fire-prone countries globally, the name ‘Black Summer’ is now predominantly linked to the 2019-2020 fire season throughout Australia. The nearly twelve-month long period burned over 18 million acres and was the cause of almost five hundred deaths, and the loss of almost ten thousand buildings, with over three thousand of those being homes. It may seem long a long time ago in the heads of many Australians as COIVD-19 swept in right as the flames settled, but those affected by the Black Summer season are still recovering, and the threat of massive fire in Australia is still as prominent.

The documentary Black Summer gives insight into several different types of people affected by the fires, what they lost, how they survived, and how they’ve moved forward in the year since. The film is hard to watch at times as you see people talking about traumatic events. There’s an obvious trust with the director of the film Hagyung Koo who built these relationships while volunteering for BlazeAid in Australia during the 2019-2020 bushfires.

The stories of the people Koo met while volunteering was so visceral that she decided to make her first feature documentary about them. Still, many of them lack the visual elements to fully explore how intense these fires were, especially for an audience outside of Australia who may not be aware of them. There is some footage of the fires burning up to the edge of one survivor’s house as he and his daughter fought through the night, which helps explain just how otherworldly and scary the fire would have been.

Black Summer does a good job of explaining what type of people the subjects are and why they would fight to protect their homes in the face of such an event. One comment I recall seeing during the fires from insensitive people outside of Australia was a question of why more people wouldn’t just pack up their belongings and leave before the fires hit their homes. But in Black Summer, it’s more than just the home that many wanted to protect; it was the animals; it was the forest itself.

In some ways, I thought that Koo should have turned the camera on herself some more to create a much more personal documentary. This isn’t always a choice filmmakers want to make, but in this case, it felt like Koo was an integral part of the story of the movie and the recovery journey that places like BlazeAid were an essential part of for those affected by the fires. Still, Hagyung Koo’s debut feature documentary is one that all Australian’s will get a lot out of, and it’s a reminder of why we should always help one another and work to protect our planet.

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival Online is running until October 31st