Man on Fire
Man on Fire
One town's history, one preacher's sacrifice.

Grand Saline, Texas, a town east of Dallas, has a history of racism, a history the community doesn’t talk about. This shroud of secrecy ended when Charles Moore, an elderly white preacher, self-immolated to protest the town's racism in 2014, shining a spotlight on the town’s dark past. “Man on Fire” untangles the pieces of this protest and questions the racism in Grand Saline today.




On one level, “Man on Fire” is an investigation into the human spirit. As Charles Moore said in his “suicide” letter, “Our human race is impressed most of all with innocent suffering, and is moved significantly by little else. It isn’t important that I be remembered, but that someone cared enough to give up everything for the sake of others.” These words hold truth for us as a society, yet I, and others, question why someone chose this extreme measure to get our attention. I believe everyone has a piece of Moore in them, whether they are aware of it or not. This yearning to do more, to help others, to sacrifice for the larger good, compels our humanity. So when someone like Moore comes around, at least on the surface, we find ourselves awestruck, riddled with contradicting emotions. On one hand, we see the goodness in Moore, the love of humanity that compelled his actions; yet, on the other hand, the pain of his death overwhelms us too. This complexity was compounded with questions that others were asking in and around Grand Saline: Why did he do it? Is racism still in Grand Saline? Did he actually change anything? These questions were the seeds we planted, and through the process of filming, nurtured, in order to give some semblance of resolve for such an extreme act. Unfortunately (but also quite naturally), the answers to these questions are not so “black and white.” Thus, I hope this film inspires others to also ask these questions and sparks a real conversation on Moore’s death and the reality of racism. Inevitably, some people will write off Moore as crazy, using facts such as “we got a black president” (a quote from the film) to claim that racism doesn‘t exist anymore. However, I believe the answers are more complicated than that. “Man on Fire” uses Moore’s self-immolation as a vehicle to explore this small, mostly white town known for its racism. Moore’s death thus becomes the means to scratch beneath the surface of Grand Saline. The film captures the reality of small town Texas, illustrating Friday night football games, rodeos, homecoming parades, skating rinks, flea market sales, local businesses, and more. Nonetheless, the town of Grand Saline is just a microcosm for the rural south and inevitably America as a whole.
— Joel Fendelman, director, "Man on Fire"
Joel’s disquieting film explores the length one White preacher was willing to go to remind us of our racist history. Like the Buddhist monks whose suicide by fire raised awareness for their cause, some see his act of self-immolation as a radical protest, others believe it’s a sign of mental illness, some feel it’s the ultimate sacrifice. At a time when we’re grappling to define a collective history, this story illustrates how difficult it is to find common language, let alone common ground.
— Lois Vossen, Executive Producer, PBS Independent Lens


Whether religious or not, each successive generation inherits a history that must be reckoned with. Here is a film that hopefully will encourage you to find a language for this reckoning, and to speak it.
— ELIZABETH PROUTY, CO-CAPTAIN Documentary Program, SLAMDANCE Film Festival
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Public Broadcast

PBS Television Premiere | December 17, 2018 - 10:00 pm | Independent Lense


Educational Use

DVD or streaming rights | New Day Films | Colleges, universities, K-12 schools, museums, community groups, public libraries and corporations


Public Screenings

Film festivals, universities | Screenings


Pre-Order home DVD

Send an email to info(at) and pre-order your own DVD copy of the film.


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This film is a great vehicle to discuss race and ethics further in your company, community or educational institution. The workshops are conducted by the filmmakers, director Fendelman and producer Dr. Sanchez, an expert in race theory (Learn more about us). Choose one of our pre-designed workshops or receive a customized offer for your needs.



Title: “Racism, Rhetoric, and Ethics: A Workshop on Documentary Filmmaking”

Length: 1-3 hrs

Description: In this workshop, we use raw interview footage from “Man on Fire” and other films to discuss interview ethics and analyze how people rhetorically position themselves in discussing race and racism. To begin, we will show some interviews from “Man on Fire” and other contemporary documentaries and will talk about our specific process in approaching sensitive subject matter. We will then show extended clips from the film to further discuss how this approach worked, didn’t work, and the ethical gray area in non-fiction filmmaking. Lastly, we will guide people in rhetorically analyzing people’s responses to questions, looking specifically at the discursive and non-discursive knowledge being shared on camera. This will culminate in a final sequence in which we will role play, asking difficult interview questions and thinking about ways to use interview ethics in action. Open to all group sizes.


Title: “Discussing Implicit Bias in the Workplace or Classroom”

Length: 1-2 hrs

Description: A workshop discussing implicit bias and micro aggressions built around raw footage from “Man on Fire”. This workshop provides examples of implicit bias from interviews in the film and asks audiences to label the bias and its underlying meaning from a rhetorical and critical race theory perspective. Open to all group sizes.


Title: “The Salt of the Earth: A Workshop on Whiteness, White Supremacy, and Documentary Filmmaking”

Length: 1-2 hrs

Description: The discussion on how whiteness influences everyday conversations about race in Grand Saline, Texas (location of this documentary film). This workshop focuses on how whiteness pervades in society and how to locate, label, and understand white privilege and white supremacy in contemporary society. Open to all group sizes.


Allow us to customize a workshop for your students or employees!


James and Joel are able to combine their unique skill sets to create a workshop for students or employees that has strong academic roots and is yet still inviting and accessible to all. With stark honesty and humor, they create a comfortable space for dialogue and reflexivity. Whether it is a workshop on ethics in documentary filmmaking or a dive into implicit bias in everyday life, the filmmakers are able to use both personal experience and experiences in filmmaking to spark poignant and introspective dialogue that not only creates a conversation about difficult issues but elevates it.


Upcoming Public Broadcast

December 17, 2018 - 10pm | Independent Lense | PBS

Upcoming Festival Screenings

February, 2019 | Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation Tour | Washington D.C., Eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware

December 1, 2018 | NewFilmmakers Los Angeles | Los Angeles, California

Upcoming University Screenings & Workshops

March 28th, 2019 | Rowan University

March 25th, 2019 | University of Illinois

March 24th, 2019 | Syracuse University

February 7th, 2019 | Queens University

February 4th, 2019 | Belmont University


Hear about screenings in your city by joining our NEWSLETTER with your ZIP code.




Previous Corporate Workshop

August 22, 2018 | Clearlink | Salt Lake City, Utah


Previous University Screenings

October 24th, 2018 | University of Kentucky | Lexington, KT

October 18, 2018 | University of Toledo | Toledo, Ohio

September 6, 2018 | Chatham University | Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

March 4th, 2018 | Middlebury College | Middlebury, Vermont

March 1st, 2018 | Texas Christian University | Fort Worth, Texas

February 28th, 2018 | University of Texas at Tyler | Tyler, Texas

We hosted a screening of “Man on Fire” for our Honors Program, and it was a resounding success. The film engaged our students on issues of race, sacrifice, and justice in a serious and introspective way. Joel Fendelman and James Chase Sanchez made excellent guests and teachers as they answered our students’ questions. Hopefully we will be able to host them again in a few years.
— Paul D. Streufert, PhD, Executive Director of the University of Texas at Tyler Honors Program

Previous Festival Screenings

November 3, 2018 | St. Louis International Film Festival | St. Louis, Missouri

October 22, 2018 | Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival | Hot Springs, Arkansas

August 25, 2018 | Sidewalk Film Festival | Birmingham, Alabama | WINNER: Programmer Award

April 30th, 2018 | Newport Beach Film Festival | Newport Beach, California

April 18, 2018 | Atlanta Film Festival | Atlanta, Georgia

April 13, 2018 | Indie Grits Lab | Columbia, South Carolina

March 15 & 18, 2018 | SLO Film Festival | San Luis Obispo, California | WINNER: Best Student Documentary

February 17, 2018 | Big Sky Documentary Film Festival | Missoula, Montana

January 20 & 24, 2018 | Slamdance Film Festival | Park City, Utah


Previous Award Ceremonies

December 9, 2017 | IDA Documentary Awards | Los Angeles, California | WINNER: David L. Wolper Student Documentary Award


Host a screening

If you would like to screen "Man on Fire" at a Film Society, Film Festival, Museum, Educational Institution, Community Center, Church, Mosque, Synagogue, School or other non-profit organization, you are required to purchase public performance rights. Please fill out our questionnaire and we will get back to you shortly. Thank you for your interest in "Man of Fire"!

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Radio Interviews


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