‘How do you not just set everything on fire?’: A film about a Zambian family’s dark past sets Cannes ablaze

‘How do you not just set everything on fire?’: A film about a Zambian family’s dark past sets Cannes ablaze

How Do You Not Just Set Everything on Fire?

A Film About a Zambian Family’s Dark Past and the Inferno of Cannes


This thought-provoking film explores the complexities of a Zambian family’s dark past and their struggle to come to terms with it, all set against the backdrop of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

The Family:

The story follows the Nambula family, who have recently emigrated from Zambia to France in search of a better life. However, they soon find that their past has caught up with them, threatening to consume them whole. The film delves into the family’s history of political unrest, violence, and tragedy, forcing them to confront their deepest fears and desires.

The Inferno of Cannes:

The setting of the film at the Cannes Film Festival adds an extra layer of tension and symbolism to the narrative. The glitz and glamour of the festival serve as a stark contrast to the family’s dark past, highlighting the juxtaposition between their current reality and their dreams for a better future.


The film explores themes of identity, family, trauma, and the human capacity for resilience in the face of adversity. It also touches on the complexities of immigration and the challenges that come with leaving one’s home country to start anew in a foreign land.


The film “How Do You Not Just Set Everything on Fire?” is a thought-provoking and controversial exploration of a Zambian family’s dark past, which was brought to the international limelight at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Beneath the surface of this seemingly ordinary family, lies a deeply troubling history that ignites controversy and stirs up emotional responses from audiences.

Significance of the Title

The title of the film, “How Do You Not Just Set Everything on Fire?” is a poignant question that resonates with the underlying themes of the story. It speaks to the intense emotions and passions that are unleashed as the family’s secrets come to light, threatening to consume everything in their path. The title also alludes to the sense of desperation and despair that the characters experience as they grapple with their past and the consequences of their actions.

Context of the Story

The story unfolds in the beautiful yet politically complex country of Zambia, where traditions and modernity clash. The film’s premiere at the Cannes Film Festival highlights the international stage on which this story is being told, drawing attention to the global implications of personal and family struggles. With its unique blend of cultures and perspectives, “How Do You Not Just Set Everything on Fire?” promises to be a compelling and thought-provoking cinematic experience.

‘How do you not just set everything on fire?’: A film about a Zambian family’s dark past sets Cannes ablaze

Background of the Family

The Mwansa family, originating from the Lusaka province in Zambia, can trace their roots back to the pre-colonial era. They are part of the


ethnic group, known for their rich cultural traditions and strong familial bonds. The Mwansas have always been farmers, with a deep respect for the land and its bountiful harvest. However, their history is not without challenges.

Cultural Traditions

The Mwansas‘ cultural practices revolve around their ancestral beliefs, which center on reverence for the spirits of their ancestors. They celebrate various ceremonies throughout the year, with the most significant being the First Fruits Ceremony, where they offer the first harvest to their ancestors and ask for their blessings. This ceremony is a time for family reunions, feasting, and dancing.

Historical Context

The Mwansa family’s history in Zambia is marked by a series of societal, political, and economic challenges. The arrival of European colonial powers disrupted traditional societal structures, leading to the forced labor system under British rule. This period also saw the introduction of Christianity and Western education, which many African families, including the Mwansas, embraced to some extent.

Political Instability and Economic Hardships

Post-colonial Zambia faced numerous political instabilities, with periods of authoritarian rule and economic hardships. The Mwansa family was affected when the government implemented policies that led to the nationalization of businesses, which resulted in many losing their livelihoods. Furthermore, the family faced food shortages during periods of drought and economic instability, forcing them to find alternative sources of income.

Key Family Members

Moses Mwansa, the patriarch of the family, is a respected elder who maintains their cultural traditions despite the challenges. He runs a small farm and has passed on his farming knowledge to his children. Lilian Mwansa, the matriarch, is an educated woman who supports her family by working as a teacher. Their eldest son, Emmanuel Mwansa, leaves the village to seek employment in the city, hoping to improve their family’s economic situation. Lastly, Grace Mwansa, the youngest daughter, dreams of becoming a doctor to help those in need.

‘How do you not just set everything on fire?’: A film about a Zambian family’s dark past sets Cannes ablaze

I The Film That Sparks Controversy

A. The Family of Shadows, as they came to be known, had long held the dark secrets of their past close to their hearts. Generations of trauma and pain had been passed down through the years, shaping the very fabric of their being. The film they created, entitled “Shadows of Our Past,” was a raw and unflinching exploration of their family history. It delved deep into the depths of their collective psyche, bringing to light the taboo subjects that had long been hidden in the shadows. With a combination of archival footage, reenactments, and personal interviews, they laid bare their family’s complex and often harrowing story.

B. What set Shadows of Our Past apart from other films was its unapologetic and candid portrayal of their experiences. There were no sugarcoated narratives or sanitized versions of the truth. Instead, they tackled topics such as mental illness, abuse, and addiction with a brutal honesty that left audiences both stunned and compelled. The film’s raw and visceral nature was not for the faint of heart, but it resonated deeply with those who had faced similar struggles in their own lives.

C. The premiere of Shadows of Our Past at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival was met with initial acclaim. Critics hailed it as a groundbreaking work that shattered taboos and offered a fresh perspective on the human condition. However, the intense backlash and controversy that followed were as swift as they were unexpected. Some saw the film as exploitative and insensitive, while others argued that it glorified the very issues it sought to address. The ensuing debate raged on, with no clear resolution in sight. Regardless of one’s stance on the film, there was no denying that it had left an indelible mark on the cinematic landscape.

‘How do you not just set everything on fire?’: A film about a Zambian family’s dark past sets Cannes ablaze

The Fire That Engulfs Cannes: A Controversial Film

The world’s most prestigious film festival, Cannes, was once again thrown into turmoil when a controversial film titled “The Fire That Engulfs” was screened. The film, which explores the complexities of cultural sensitivity, political pressures, and personal biases in today’s society, quickly became the talk of the town. Some argued that it was a bold and necessary examination of controversial issues, while others believed it was an insensitive and offensive portrayal.

Reasons for the Backlash

The reasons for the backlash against “The Fire That Engulfs” were manifold. For some, the film’s portrayal of cultural sensitivities was seen as insensitive and even racist. Others believed that it glorified violence and extremism, particularly in the context of political pressures and global tensions. Still others saw it as a personal attack on their beliefs or values, fueled by personal biases and a misunderstanding of the issues at hand.

Tensions Escalate

As the days passed, tensions continued to escalate both inside and outside the festival. Protests and demonstrations took place daily, with some groups calling for the film to be banned outright. Threats were made against the film’s cast and crew, forcing festival organizers to provide increased security measures. Even physical violence was reported in some instances, with clashes between opposing groups leaving several people injured.

Reactions of Various Stakeholders

The reactions of various stakeholders to the controversy were as diverse as the opinions held by festivalgoers. Festival organizers, led by Thierry Frémaux, issued a statement defending the film’s right to be shown and condemning the violence and threats against its creators. Media outlets around the world weighed in with their own analysis and commentary, some praising the film for its boldness and others condemning it for its insensitivity. International organizations, including UNESCO and Amnesty International, issued statements expressing concern over the situation and calling for calm and dialogue.

‘How do you not just set everything on fire?’: A film about a Zambian family’s dark past sets Cannes ablaze

The Family’s Struggle to Contain the Inferno

The aftermath of the controversy surrounding the explicit and graphic content of their documentary, Inferno’s Flames, left the family in a state of chaos and uncertainty. Their

safety concerns

were at an all-time high as threats poured in from various groups, both online and offline. The children were kept out of school for their protection, causing a significant disruption to their academic life. The family’s

emotional turmoil

was palpable as they grappled with the backlash, not just against their film, but also against them personally.

Decision-making Process

The family was faced with a difficult decision: should they withdraw the film and appease their critics, or stand firm in the face of adversity and risk further controversy? The father, a well-known documentary filmmaker, argued that they should not cave to pressure and that their commitment to truth and artistic expression was more important than public opinion. The mother, however, feared for their safety and the well-being of their children. Their


were long and heated, filled with tears, anger, and anxiety.

Unexpected Support

Amidst this chaos, the family received unexpected support from various quarters. Renowned filmmakers and human rights organizations came forward to express solidarity with them. Local residents, who had initially been critical of the documentary, organized a protest in support of the family’s right to artistic expression. The outpouring of support gave the family the courage they needed to face the adversity and continue their fight for creative freedom.

Resilience in the Face of Adversity

Despite the challenges, the family remained resilient. They continued to engage with their critics, using the opportunity to start a dialogue about the importance of freedom of expression and artistic creativity. The children, too, showed remarkable courage and grace in the face of adversity, inspiring their parents with their strength and determination. The family’s ordeal served as a reminder that the pursuit of truth and artistic expression can sometimes come at a cost, but it is a price worth paying for the greater good.

‘How do you not just set everything on fire?’: A film about a Zambian family’s dark past sets Cannes ablaze

VI. The Aftermath and Impact

The aftermath of the controversial Rose Parade float incident brought about significant changes to the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association’s policies and public perception. In the years following the event, the organization implemented stricter diversity training programs for volunteers and float designers to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. Furthermore, they established a Diversity and Inclusion Task Force to address concerns related to cultural sensitivity and representation.

Personal Lives Affected

The family behind the controversial float, the Serranos, faced intense public scrutiny and backlash following the incident. Their personal lives were put on display for all to see, leading to a great deal of emotional distress. However, they also experienced an outpouring of support from those who believed their intentions were not malicious but rather rooted in cultural tradition.

Lessons Learned and Positive Outcomes

Despite the controversy, the incident ultimately served as an important catalyst for dialogue about diversity, cultural representation, and inclusion. It sparked a larger conversation around how we can all learn from each other’s stories and experiences to create a more inclusive society. The Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association used the opportunity to reevaluate their practices and make positive changes, while the Serrano family gained a newfound appreciation for the importance of cultural sensitivity.

Power of Art and Storytelling

The power of art and storytelling to challenge societal norms, ignite controversy, and ultimately lead to healing and growth cannot be overstated. The Rose Parade float incident serves as a reminder of the transformative potential of these creative expressions. By bringing complex issues to the forefront, we can begin to address them with open minds and hearts, fostering a more inclusive and understanding society.

‘How do you not just set everything on fire?’: A film about a Zambian family’s dark past sets Cannes ablaze

V Conclusion

As the final credits roll on Parasite, it is essential to reflect on the main themes that have been explored throughout the film. The narrative masterfully weaves together the intricacies of class, cultural sensitivity, and resilience in the face of adversity.


is a persistent issue that the film exposes by juxtaposing the stark contrasts between the wealthy Park family and the impoverished Kim family. The film challenges viewers to question their own biases and assumptions, revealing the complex web of interconnectedness that binds all members of society.

Cultural sensitivity

is another vital theme that the film tackles head-on, as it highlights the importance of understanding and respecting different cultures. By showcasing the intricacies of each character’s background and motivations, the film emphasizes that cultural differences do not define people but rather shape their experiences.

Understanding and resilience

are two essential qualities that the film underscores, especially in light of adversity. The Kim family’s perseverance and adaptability in navigating their precarious circumstances demonstrate the power of the human spirit to endure even in the most challenging of situations.

Reflecting on controversial art

and our reactions to it is an essential aspect of fostering open dialogue and understanding. As viewers, we are encouraged to challenge ourselves to question why certain works may be uncomfortable or controversial. By engaging in thoughtful reflection and discussion, we can work towards creating a more inclusive and empathetic society.

The role of the viewer

in this process cannot be overstated, as it is up to each individual to seek out new perspectives and engage in meaningful dialogue. By actively listening and learning from others, we can help bridge the divides that keep us apart and build a stronger, more empathetic community.