I’m on Fire (Michael Spiccia, 2022): USA

Reviewed by Kyra Siegan. Viewed at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2024

The 39th Annual  Santa Barbara International Film Festival showcased an array of short films in the romance and high-stakes drama category. Among those shown was I’m on Fire,  a film exploring the  power of music. Directed by Michael Spiccia and featuring James DiGiacomo, Jamie Lynn Sigler, and Lillo Brancato, the film follows the turbulent life of an unnamed young boy in the eighties living in an abusive household.

Throughout the narrative, music emerges as a savior for the protagonist, offering him an escape from his harsh world into a more tranquil setting. The boy’s profound love of music is evident in his creation of meticulously crafted mixtapes, which not only provide him solace but also serve as a means of connection with others, as he designs mixtapes for those he loves. Music serves as a vital storytelling device, shaping the mood and atmosphere of the film. Notably, the absence of music during instances of abuse and negativity underscores its pivotal role as a source of salvation.

Despite its runtime of only twenty-four minutes, I’m on Fire masterfully captures a myriad of emotions and storylines. The film grapples with a wide array of themes, including gender, sexuality, generational trauma, gender roles, domestic violence, and the significance of music, What distinguishes I’m on Fire apart from other films, is its utilization of fast-paced shots, particularly evident in scenes where the boy creates mixtapes. These rapid sequences highlight both the meticulous care with which he crafts his music and the lengths he goes to to distract himself from the violence just outside his door.

While most audiences already appreciate music, the film offers a profound exploration of how it can be a saving grace. By juxtaposing moments of musical immersion with instances of violence and despair, the film underscores the power of music as a beacon of hope in the darkest of times. I’m on Fire is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of art.

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