Fires in the Mirror (1993) American Playhouse


On Aug. 19, 1991 in Crown Heights (Brooklyn, N.Y.) a Hasidic man accidentally runs over a Black boy (Gavin Cato). Three hours later a young Jewish scholar (Yankel Rosenbaum) was murdered by Black youths. Four days of fire-bombing and riots ensued. Anna Deavere-Smith acts out the roles of these 18 persons involved in the racial conflict, trying to present the differing views of this serious problem. Includes actual film footage of the riots and violence.

Director: George C. Wolfe.
Writer: Anna Deavere Smith.
Stars: Anna Deavere Smith.


Many thanks to Steve for sending me a copy of this.

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  1. Jonathan Shapiro
    August 24, 2021

    I LOVE American Playhouse uploads! Thank you!

  2. Tveitt Irgens
    September 2, 2021

    Thanks for presenting us with this film. I was glad to be able to see it. A sad state of affairs, these problems were and are. I think it’s a very racist film in itself, I’m afraid. The actress portrays Blacks in a very trope-ish and stereotypical manner. It’s difficult not to believe she is very racist herself, and acts as an apologetic way on behalf of the Jewish young man guilty of the manslaughter. But this is one of the reasons Rarefilmm is so special, we get to see films that otherwise would be withheld from us, or just left behind. In this way we can form our own opinions about them. And if we feel what is portrayed as being wrong, it helps us to move ourselves in a more positive and constructive direction.

  3. McKenzie
    January 5, 2024

    As a big fan of Smith’s work, I feel compelled to respond to a 2 year old comment (above) — Anna Deavere Smith is a Black woman who interviews subjects and repeats their words verbatim back to others for her work. She does almost documentary style, journalistic theatre. The way she speaks when portraying another Black character is the way it is because that is how the person spoke to her. I think calling her racist is not only completely incorrect, but a simplification of the work she does and just downright disrespectful to those interviewed during these horrific events. Hope this helps.

  4. bigfan
    January 5, 2024

    a beautiful piece, one that i had no hopes of finding anywhere, so imagine my gratitude when i found it here! anna deavere smith is a true artist, yet i found myself more moved by the openness with which her subjects talked to her and the empathy with which she portrayed them than even the performances themselves, which is not to diminish how moved i was by the performances, only to emphasize how impressive this entire piece is. EXTRAORDINARY!

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