Directed by Sara Dosa and narrated by Miranda July, Fire of Love was shortlisted for the 95th Academy Awards in the Best Documentary Feature category. The doc follows French scientists Katia and Maurice Krafft, who devoted their lives to uncovering the mystery of volcanoes, covering eruptions around the world, and in the process, capturing spectacular imagery. The production reveals how their shared passion for volcanoes enabled pioneering research in the 1970s and ‘80s that helped save lives, but ultimately ended their own.
Director Dosa drew from hundreds of hours of rare and never-before-seen footage and photographs shot by the Kraffts, channeling humor, affection and their insatiable curiosity.
“We worked with about 250 hours of archival footage to edit Fire of Love — about 200 hours of 16mm that Katia and Maurice shot, and about 50 hours of them on the news, variety shows, science roundtables and their own educational television series, among others,” Dosa explains. “The footage was absolutely spectacular, yet also full of challenges. Many of the Kraffts’ 16mm shots were only a few seconds long and often out of chronological order — and none of it had sync sound, whereas the footage that they didn’t shoot did have sound. It often had baked in music and was limited to the editing choices of those who made those programs 30 to 50 years ago.”
The project was edited on an Avid system, and while there wasn’t any conventional imagery that communicated a ‘love story’ — holding hands, kissing, etc., there was an abundance of imagery that communicated Katia and Maurice’s profound passion for volcanoes. This included Katia lovingly caressing a boulder’s face and Maurice closely observing bubbling lava flow.
The director’s framework of a love triangle between Katia, Maurice and volcanoes was inspired by a quote of Maurice’s and reinforced through research.
“We decided to embrace our challenges and associatively edited a film that used volcano imagery as the Kraffts’ love language, so to speak,” says the director. “The narrative structure of a love triangle film, influenced heavily by French new wave films, was an overarching guide.”
Dosa says she collaborated with editors Erin Casper and Jocelyne Chaput on the project.
“They are both extremely talented, creative, meticulous, hard working, playful and hilarious people,” she notes. “They not only edited the picture, but did the first and instrumental round of sound design for the majority of the footage that did not have sync sound.”
The team worked collaboratively on the edit, pretty much living together in Dosa’s house in Berkeley, CA.
“Our process was full of discussion and laughter, experimentation and long hours late into the night,” she recalls. “The three of us, along with one of our producers, Shane Boris, collaboratively wrote the narration of the film as well, which we did simultaneous to the edit.”