Lava Bombs: Truths Behind The Volcano is an explosive new documentary on the 2021 volcanic eruption that overwhelmed the tiny island of La Palma and hit the headlines around the world. With harrowing real-time testimony and dramatic unseen footage, this timely film highlights the deep impacts of the violent event so lessons can be drawn for future emergencies of all kinds around the world.
The documentary takes you deep into how everyone felt before, during and after this violent episode. This is a great resource to improve our resilience to catastrophic natural disasters and inform disaster management around the globe.
The documentary gets right to the heart of the human side of volcanic eruptions. It reveals the truths and emotions of these events in real time in a raw and honest way. Though this may make it difficult and hard to watch, it makes it all the more important.
Lava Bombs brings to attention all the crises that happened during the eruption in a professional manner. The different problems that occurred following the eruption are clearly outlined. To be able to see the response to the crises from different stakeholders’ perspectives is compelling. Everyone’s perspective is clearly denoted: residents, scientists and politicians. All the narratives are strongly attached to the soul of each character.
Lava Bombs directed by Alexander Whittle and produced by Sharon Backhouse throws light onto the 2021 La Palma eruption from a very different, yet important perspective. The documentary brings to light the elaborate and complex interaction between scientists, residents and government officials that is involved in any disaster response.
Lava Bombs can go a long way in showing us all how effective communication and proper planning is crucial to manage disasters.
A fundamental concept, brilliantly put in evidence by the Lava Bombs film, is the difficult relationship that exists between citizens and political institutions during these extreme events, particularly after the occurrence of the tragedy, as well as the issues that concern the relationship between the science community and politics, especially before a natural disaster occurs.
Lava Bombs is a timely, compelling, emotional tour de force which tells the story of the volcanic eruption on La Palma in September 2021. The documentary offers a necessary account of the emergency plans that were in place for evacuation, a critical account of how those plans were communicated and executed on the ground, and how local communities are faring in the immediate aftermath.
The story behind
Lava Bombs: Truths Behind The Volcano:
On the 19th September 2021, a new volcano on the Cumbre Vieja ridge of La Palma roared into life with explosions of lava and ash threatening thousands of homes. Our GeoTenerife team arrived on La Palma on the 25th September to report on the rapidly evolving emergency.
Whilst filming live updates from the eruption for local and international media, we started to record intimate interviews with residents and emergency workers on our phones, keenly aware that many of the stories and impacts of the crisis would otherwise be lost. We were heartbroken by the deep impact being felt and resolved to document the event in a way that would ensure the many voices of Canarians affected by this devastating emergency would reach far beyond La Palma’s shores.
GeoTenerife resolved to self-fund a documentary, joined forces with New Light Studio and the effort to produce Lava Bombs: Truths Behind The Volcano was born. With a fiercely independent eye we resolved to dig deep behind the headlines to highlight how the latest Canary Islands eruption impacted not just on residents but policy makers, scientists and emergency managers.
We are especially keen to share these lessons learnt as some of the issues of the emergency response in La Palma were first identified in other volcanic emergencies over 25 years ago but have yet to be widely solved in volcanic regions.
Meet the Collaborators:
I Love the World
Radio Televisión Canaria
Samu Cáceres Leal
Pedro Felipe Acosta
Unidad Militar de Emergencias
Lava Bombs: Truths Behind The Volcano captures the explosive stories behind the crisis and response to the 2021 Volcán de Tajogaite eruption in Cumbre Vieja on La Palma in the Canary Islands.
Lava Bombs reveals the heavy impact of this major disaster, through the voices of the affected people, emergency managers, politicians and scientists, as well as showcasing spectacular imagery captured by witnesses, news crews and drone pilots.
For the first time, Lava Bombs digs deep into the responses of authorities before and during a dramatic emergency of this kind, looking past the headlines at the intense pressure of monitoring and managing an overwhelming natural disaster in the glare of the international media and providing a platform for the citizens at the heart of the destruction to share their incredible testimony.
The documentary is a distillation of GeoTenerife’s ongoing #VolcanoStories project, preserving valuable testimony and research from the eruption of Tajogaite volcano. #VolcanoStories will be available to view at www.geotenerife.com/VolcanoStories from September 19 2022.
Throughout the eruption, Volcanology experts at GeoTenerife worked with international media outlets to give live reports and updates on the eruption to inform the public about the changes and phenomena those on the ground were witnessing. We would like to greatly thank all of the media outlets who contacted us throughout the eruption. A playlist of our news interviews during the eruption can be seen by clicking on the collage below.
Additional resources – VolcanoStories:
Lava Bombs: Truths Behind the Volcano is a distillation of our ongoing research project VolcanoStories, preserving the testimony of the 2021 Volcan de Tajogaite Eruption on La Palma, and presenting research and educational resources about the eruption. To explore the VolcanoStories resources, please visit www.geotenerife.com/VolcanoStories.
Meet the Protagonists:
We are eternally grateful to all our protagonists who agreed to take part during the live eruption of 2021. It’s easy to solve the world’s problems over a cup of coffee – but by stepping behind the scenes into their intimate world we appreciate the heavy impact and pressure of this long, dramatic event on everyone concerned.
Hover over the photos to find out more.
Miguel Ángel Morcuende
Samu Cáceres Leal
Jose Alejandro Santos González
Ana Jesica Acosta Cruz
Yanira Leal Rodríguez
Francisco Moreno García
Lt. Col. Lafuente Quiñones
Ángel Víctor Torres Perez
We invited Involcan to participate in the making of Lava Bombs but they were unable to make anyone available during our filming window. However, we subsequently recorded an interview with their Head of Outreach, David Calvo, which is available to view on www.geotenerife.com/volcanostories. The website also includes extensive interviews with other key members of PEVOLCA involved in the response.
Mariano Hernández Zapata
María José Blanco
Jamie Salvador Díaz Pacheco
Naira Espinosa González
Julio Pérez Hernández
Juan Carlos Carracedo
Eugenio Fraile Nuez
Bali Díaz Lorenzo
Noelia García Leal
Unfortunately the mayor of El Paso, Sergio Rodriguez, of Coalición Canaria who played an important role in the eruption response was not available for interview when we were in La Palma with the production crew, but we conducted a number of interviews with him during and after the eruption which will be added in full to our www.geotenerife.com/volcanostories playlist.
Meet the team:
Director Alexander Whittle’s vision and experience helped to drive the narrative to define Lava Bombs and he was critical in bringing this story to the big screen. Thanks to the involvement of his production company, New Light Studio, the project which started out chaotically on an iphone in a shower of ash and rivers of lava as Tajogaite roared into life was elevated to full feature status. He brought rigour to filming and his artistic flair to editing. His involvement ensured not only that we tell the stories behind the volcano engagingly, but that those voices are carried and heard far beyond the Canary Islands to help guide other scientists, politicians and emergency managers so those brave voices who came forward during the eruption in La Palma could help to build resilience to natural catastrophes of all kinds around the world. Alexander and NLS strive to tell stories that shine a bright light on humanitarian issues of all kinds, always told with love for those affected and underscored with a message of hope for the future. His previous films have been shown on platforms such as Netflix and have been used to further messaging to those that need to hear it.
Through her first long form film production LavaBombs, Producer Sharon Backhouse brings her decades of experience in journalism and science to help create an intelligent, thought provoking and honest look at the eruption impacts and response in la Palma. The last 10 years of running GeoTenerife, an innovative science training and communication company, means she was in a unique position to speak to key players at the height of the emergency. Relationships matter and Sharon is the epitome of this. Her integrity shines through and is reciprocated through the interviews that we see and dramatic footage contributed from diverse sources. When she arrived in La Palma with her students to report on the eruption, she quickly realised they were in a unique position to document and reflect on events. Heartbreakingly people affected by natural catastrophes from Montserrat in 1995 to the New Zealand earthquake in 2011 report similar impacts to those seen in La Palma, but lessons learned seldom travel outside their borders in a meaningful way. GeoTenerife funded the production of Lava Bombs in its entirety to maintain an independent voice to ensure that lessons learnt in la Palma could reach far beyond the shores of the Canary Islands. Her firm commitment to open access in science means that all the research carried out by GeoTenerife in association with local and international experts and institutions in La Palma will be openly published through their ongoing project VolcanoStories.
Ben Ireland is GeoTenerife’s Science Advisor and has an academic background in Volcanology and Earth Sciences, with previous experience in science communication and marketing. Ben was undertaking an internship with GeoTenerife when the eruption began and was on hand to provide timely updates on the eruption as it progressed. With the growth of Lava Bombs and the vast catalogue of footage surrounding it, Ben was promoted to Scientific Advisor and became involved in curating the scientific information relating to the eruption to ensure the messages in Lava Bombs had a secure and verifiable scientific base. He has also led on the curation of the wealth of footage, research, data and reports surrounding the eruption. The result of this curation is VolcanoStories, an open-access research project and resource showcasing information about the eruption, launching on the 19th September.
Rosie Rice is an MPhil researcher in Geography from the University of Cambridge, with an academic background in both physical and human geography. Like Ben, Rosie was undertaking an internship with GeoTenerife when the eruption began, and travelled to La Palma with GeoTenerife to assist with the reporting on the eruption. Rosie’s dissertation, based on interviews conducted by GeoTenerife, explored how the memory of the previous volcanic eruption in La Palma, the 1971 Teneguia eruption, affected the response to the 2021 Tajogaite eruption, and gave a further base to the key messages of Lava Bombs.