The hidden face of American society; Roberto Minervini's What You Gonna Do When The World's on Fire

By Maximiliano Cruz

Using a ghostlike camera, some resources taken from direct cinema, and a virtuoso capacity to assimilate the other, director Roberto Minervini delves into the life of an African-American community in New Orleans and Jackson County, Mississippi, to pay homage to grassroots struggle and the immanent strength of a group of dispossessed people who resist in a territory where racism, abuse, and abandonment reign with the help of the powers that be.

Characters of an intact humane quality that shines on. A passionate head of a household has to deal with the imminent closure of his bar, where the local community gathers and celebrates. Two siblings navigate in a hostile environment under the guidance of their mother while they wait for their father to be released from jail. The leader of a native people keeps the traditions in the eve of the Mardi Gras. A cell of the New Black Panther Party (a peaceful self-defense organization) operates, come hell or high water, in an area where the Ku Klux Klan’s perversity is still in force and active.

After the stimulating Texas Trilogy—The Passage, Low Tide, Stop the Pounding Heart—and the premonitory pre-Trump document on an American idiosyncrasy gobbled up by degradation and resentment—The Other Side—Minervini insists on shedding light (this time using an elegant black-and-white cinematography) over American society.