Man on Fire investigates Charles Moore’s self-immolation in protest of racism in his hometown of Grand Saline, Texas and explores three major themes: the life and death of Charles Moore, the vestiges of racism in rural America, and the impact of Moore’s death on people in Grand Saline and surrounding areas. The film captures the authenticity of rural East Texas with engrossing interviews from members of Grand Saline, including a former mayor, a city administrator, business owners, elders, and young adults, to better understand their perspective on racism in their community. Outside of these interviews, the film explores communities of color near Grand Saline and investigates how these people fear the racism of their neighbors.
Lastly, the film explores how Grand Saline and communities nearby dealt with Moore’s death through grappling with the complexity of self-immolation as an effective protest act. Many of the interviews in the film express their raw emotions regarding Moore’s death and Grand Saline’s racism, demonstrating their anger, pain, fear, and resolve. They also express the shortcomings of Moore’s protest, questioning what it means for a preacher to kill himself as dissent. Overall, Man on Fire encapsulates the racial climate in Grand Saline and chronicles Moore’s life and death, presenting Grand Saline and Moore as two pillars of the film’s narrative: one a disjointed man seeking truth and communal repentance and the other a community whose present is inextricably tied to their past.