Trial by Fire: Lives Reforged

Fri Sep 6, 9-10.55pm, PBS

This is not one for the faint-hearted. The first 25 minutes in particular may overwhelm you with images of severe burns and heartrending backstories. But then, you’d expect a documentary about people who have survived fires to be hard-going from the off.

However, as a piece of interesting and informative television, it could do with less shock factor and more storyline. Each tale is so brief that, by the time the tragedy has sunk in, it skips to the next without any real conclusion. Only at the end do we discover the outcomes and, by that point, compassion fatigue has set in. Before ‘Trial by Fire’, this debut documentary-maker, Megan Smith-Harris’s most notable work was acting in ‘Police Academy 4’, so perhaps we can forgive the flimsy structure. After all, the programme does hammer home her point that all burn survivors can successfully ‘re-forge’ their lives. But this much sentimentality can be bit tough on the heartstrings.


Megan Smith-Harris

I take issue with Danielle Goldstein's snarky comments in reviewing my documentary, "TRIAL BY FIRE: Lives Re-Forged." I have no problem with someone critiquing my work but she should at least attempt to get her facts right. Saying that my most "notable work was acting in Police Academy 4" is wildly inaccurate. In the last seven years I have made produced/written and produced/directed four documentaries including two one-hour docs (Polygamy, Child Brides) for an anthology series as well as a two-hour television special on surrogate mothers (Surrogate Stories), all of which, aired nationally here in the United Sates and have sold internationally. "TRIAL BY FIRE" was my independent feature debut, garnered a rave review in the Los Angeles Times, qualified for Academy Award consideration and was chosen by Leonard Maltin for his Cinema Studies Series. What Ms. Goldstein saw was a 56 minute television version. The original runs 87 minutes which may explain why she felt some of the stories moved too quickly. If Ms. Goldstein had actually taken the time to look me up on IMDB or read my bio which is easily found online, she would have found many other writing, producing and directing credits. But perhaps she couldn't resist the impulse to dredge up a minor acting credit from decades ago, to help her take a cheap shot. The people profiled in "TRIAL BY FIRE" are inspirational in the truest sense of the word, and have extraordinary courage and strength. I was honored to document their personal journeys and continue to share their stories through the film around the country.