Taking the Heat


"A rare, honest, life-changing documentary"— Gloria Steinem

Narrated by Susan Sarandon, this PBS documentary takes us back to the early Eighties, when the New York City Fire Department was forced by federal law to open its doors to women recruits. All hell broke loose in firehouses across the city. The few women who dared to join the all-male (and mostly white) firehouses faced a litany of harassment, from verbal to sexual to physical. The women had to fight not only fires but also their fellow firefighters. Women, almost always alone in their firehouses, endured death threats, being sent into fires with drained oxygen tanks, broken glass their boots, and even straight-out physical assaults, some with weapons.

Taking the Heat follows the career of Captain Brenda Berkman, the woman who filed the original lawsuit challenging the FDNY—the world’s largest and one of the most traditional fire departments in the world. The film shows how and why this handful of women persevered through the deadly early years and remained on the job for over two decades, despite all they had to suffer in the hands of their male co-workers and a powerful union.

Film website: Taking the Heat


Independent Lens, PBS (national feed), USA. Distributors: ITVS
National Geographic, UK. Distributor: Smiley Pictures
SBS, Australia. Distributor: Smiley Pictures


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