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.

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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

I love The World https://ilovetheworld.es/ are a talented and inspiring Canarian audiovisual production company who filmed incredible drone footage of the eruption. During the event they were the eyes in the sky for thousands of people desperate to know about the state of their houses as events unfolded. After the eruption they published uncensored testimony from residents in a compelling book “Las Otras Historias del Volcán”, with all profits donated to local NGO Tierra Bonita.
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Radio Televisión Canaria

Radio Televisión Canaria generously opened up their archive to supply us with their news footage as well as their widely-praised novel educational animations of the volcanic processes and never-before-seen footage filmed by their drone pilots and cameramen throughout the eruption.
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Samu Cáceres Leal

An incredible local drone pilot we have been working with from the start. He continues to collaborate with GeoTenerife on a wide range of research projects. His spectacular drone footage and videos capture the devastating power of his island’s latest volcano while the lava flows inched towards his property and ultimately destroyed his home. While his family bunked in with an assortment of friends and neighbours throughout the eruption, he kept working assiduously, documenting each twist and turn for posterity. Samu’s story also inspired our #SAMULaPalma crowdfunding campaign for those affected by the eruption. Samu photographed the Western flank of La Palma with his drone for us from the IEO-CSIC’s research vessel with us and stitched dozens of high resolution images together to enable us to animate a dramatic sequence towards the end of the movie showing the full extent of the impact of the eruption on the Valle de Aridane.
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Drones4Geology

Drones4Geology have recorded incredible post-eruptive footage of La Palma for the documentary thanks to an ongoing monitoring we are collaborating on. They have also accompanied us on field trips, producing a 3D drone model of the affected area for #VolcanoStories and teaching students about wide ranging using drones in geosciences.
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IGN

We are grateful to IGN Spain and Carmen López in Madrid for opening their archive to us. In particular also to Rubén López who generously shared his close-up footage of their work during the eruption.
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IEO

The Instituto Español de Oceanografía (IEO) and Eugenio Fraile Nuez granted us incredible access aboard their research vessel Angeles Alvariño to learn more about the underwater research connected to the eruption, and provided us with fantastic images and videos relating to their research.
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Pedro Felipe Acosta

Pedro Felipe Acosta is a local naturalist who has been creating wildlife documentaries in the Canary Islands for over 30 years. He shared with us his mesmerising footage which allowed us to compile a sequence of hope towards the end of the movie, showing La Palma from across the ocean ever closer until we end up on the very valley floor.

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Guardia Civil

Our thanks to the Guardia Civil who enabled an extensive helicopter overflight of Teneguía, the volcanoes route and Tajogaite volcano so we could film dramatic comparative shots.
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Unidad Militar de Emergencias

We are incredibly thankful to the Unidad Militar de Emergencias (UME) for sharing historic footage from their security, science and maintenance work inside the exclusion zone. Their operatives were also very generous with their time to give us their personal testimonies for #VolcanoStories.
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Rubén Lopéz

is a Volcanologist for the IGN, the National Geographic institute in Spain, who provided us with incredible photos and videos of his essential volcano monitoring work with the IGN in the exclusion zone of the volcano.
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Synopsis:

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.

#FuerzaLaPalma

News Interviews:

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.

 

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Miguel Ángel Morcuende

was the technical director of the Volcanic Emergency Plan of the Canary Islands (PEVOLCA) steering committee.
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Samu Cáceres Leal

is a La Palma resident who was evacuated and lost his home during the eruption. He is also an expert drone pilot and is an ongoing collaborator with GeoTenerife for drone photography and videography.
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Jose Alejandro Santos González

is a resident of La Palma from Todoque who lost his home during the eruption.
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Ana Jesica Acosta Cruz

is a resident of La Palma from Todoque who lost her home during the eruption.
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Cristina Alcaine

is the Director of News and Content for RTVE. She is from La Palma and spent a lot of time on the island with the local and national RTVE news crews producing their footage of the eruption.
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Jenni Barclay

is a Volcanologist from the University of East Anglia, UK. Her current research examines how we can better prepare for and respond to volcanic eruptions, especially through empowering local communities.
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Yanira Leal Rodríguez

is a resident of La Palma from Todoque who lost her home during the eruption. Her home was near the famous Todoque church, which was an important local landmark.

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Andrea

is a German resident of La Palma from the village of Las Manchas south west of the volcano, who lost her home during the eruption.

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Francisco Moreno García

is the Director General of Radio Televisión Canaria
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Clive Oppenheimer

is a Volcanologist from the University of Cambridge, who has appeared in Volcanology documentaries produced by Werner Herzog.
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Lt. Col. Lafuente Quiñones

is the Chief of Operations for the Guardia Civil in the province of Santa Cruz Tenerife, and responsible for the Security Committee established by PEVOLCA.
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Ángel Víctor Torres Perez

is the President of the Canary Islands and a member of the Socialist Party of Spain (PSOE). He is in charge of the response when the emergency level reaches level 2.
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Nemesio Perez

is the Coordinator of INVOLCAN, the volcano monitoring agency of the Canary Islands.
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.
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Mariano Hernández Zapata

is the President of the Island Council of La Palma and a member of the Popular Party (PP). He is in charge when the emergency is at level 3.
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María José Blanco

is the head of the Scientific Committee of PEVOLCA, and is a Geophysicist of the National Geographic Institute of Spain (IGN). She was the head of the Scientific Committee established by PEVOLCA.
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Nieves Sánchez

is a researcher for the Spanish Geological Survey (IGME), who has worked on projects related to the evaluation of volcanic risk, as well as geophysical studies on La Palma.
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Jamie Salvador Díaz Pacheco

is a Physical Geography Professor at the University of La Laguna (ULL) in Tenerife. He wrote La Palma’s Volcanic Emergency Response Plan (PAIV) and worked during the eruption to create new simulations of where the lava flows may travel to inform the emergency response.
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Naira Espinosa González

is a La Palma resident from La Costa, Tazacorte who was evacuated and lost her home during the eruption
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Julio Pérez Hernández

is the director of the PEVOLCA steering committee, and in that role is in charge of the emergency management when the emergency levels reaches level 2.
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Juan Carlos Carracedo

is a retired Professor of Geology for the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC). He is known for his groundbreaking work studying the geology of the Canary Islands and reconstructing the volcanic histories of the islands, and has published many books on the topic.
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Tom Wilson

is a Professor of Disaster Risk and Resilience from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, who researches how we can mitigate and communicate the potential impact of volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters
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Vicente Zapata

is a Human Geography Professor at the University of La Laguna (ULL) in Tenerife. His work focuses on how participatory and community-led approaches can be beneficial to disaster risk and resilience and his group runs a project called Revivir el Valle which includes organising regular meetings with residents.
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Javier Salinero

is the Vice President of the Tierra Bonita Association, an NGO set up during the volcanic eruption to direct funds and donations to help those affected and critically analyse the reconstruction of the island
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Juan

is a La Palma resident from Las Manchas who was evacuated during the eruption. He is a mechanic and runs his own car repair shop in El Paso
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Eugenio Fraile Nuez

is a scientific researcher at the Spanish Oceanographic Institute (IEO). He has commanded the IEO’s research trips to La Palma during and after the volcanic eruption, which have investigated the impacts of the eruption on the coastline, ocean composition, wildlife, and much more.
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Bali Díaz Lorenzo

is a La Palma resident from La Laguna who was evacuated and lost her home during the eruption.
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Agoney Piñero

is the CEO of Gesplan, a local planning and environmental management company who are tasked by the Island Council of La Palma with many of the reconstruction plans for the island.
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Noelia García Leal

is the Mayor of the municipality of Los Llanos de Aridane, the municipality most affected by the volcanic eruption. She is a member of the same political party as the president of the island council of La Palma, the Popular Party (PP). He used to serve as her deputy at the Town Hall.
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.
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Meet the team:

Alex

Director

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. 

Sharon

Producer

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

Consultant

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

Consultant

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.

Press:

Press and media outlets should contact:

 

Tina Fotherby

Director, Famous Publicity

Tina@famouspublicity.com

Tel: +44 7703 409 622