The LAVA BOMBS Documentary Project

Part 1: Truths Behind the Volcano

Part 2: The Reconstruction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photography by Samuel Caceres

Through our collaboration with Alexander Whittle of New Light Studio, GeoTenerife has produced two documentaries LAVA BOMBS: Truths Behind the Volcano and LAVA BOMBS 2: The Reconstruction. GeoTenerife aims to tell the unheard human stories of the people affected by the 2021 eruption of the Volcán de Tajogaite, La Palma. GeoTenerife funded the production of the Lava Bombs project 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 and is committed to making all of the materials open access for students and researchers worldwide.

The LAVA BOMBS documentaries critically analyse the response to this disaster before, during, and crucially after the eruption. We aim to show the deep and long-term impacts of this event to strengthen resilience to volcanic eruptions in the Canary Islands and beyond.

About Part 1

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. Lava Bombs digs deep into the responses of authorities before and during a dramatic emergency of this kind, looking beyond the headlines at the intense pressure of monitoring and managing an overwhelming natural disaster in the glare of the international media and the deep impacts on the local population.

About Part 2

From the makers of the award-winning documentary Lava Bombs: Truths Behind the Volcano, Lava Bombs 2: The Reconstruction dives into what happens after the most destructive eruption in an island’s history ends. The eruption of the Volcan de Tajogaite volcano hit international headlines in 2021, but LavaBombs Part 2 reveals the struggle to recover on this small island in the middle of the Atlantic long after the international news attention moved on. Through dramatic footage and intimate testimony from politicians, scientists, residents, and activists, this new documentary highlights the difficult path to recovery and advocates for a future resilient to volcanic crises. The reconstruction will be released in the Summer of 2024.

Lava Bombs' Themes

Communication

Science communication should be accessible, coherent, and in a unified message

Uncertainty

Lack of information resulted in residents living precariously, anxiety-riden, and uncertain of the future.

Trust

Unclear messaging and unfulfilled promises of what aid would arrive lead to distrust and anger

Preparedness

La Palma will need a systemic change to improve policy for the next crisis

Pressure

The pressure of a 24/7 news cycle on the emergency managers, politicians, and scientists

Promises

The promises made to residents early in the recovery caused high expectations that could not be met

Ego

Inflated egos can interfere with effective collaboration and problem solving between organisations

Inequity

Disabled people and non-spanish speakers not being appropriately accommodated for during the reconstruction

Community

A communities deep connection to place should be considered during reconstruction efforts

Resilience

Despite the challenges, Palmero's are determined to rebuild their lives and communities.

La Palma Reconstruction updates

Our commitment to researching the impacts of the eruption and recovery is ongoing. We make all of our research openly available, including 3D drone models, interactive timeline, witness testimony, and monthly reconstruction updates.

  • Authorisation of 42 new homes in Puerto Naos, - As of 30th April 734 families can now access their homes. Aid for farmers - The City Council of Los Llanos de Aridane has approved a motion to review the criteria for aid for farms affected by the volcano. First reconstructed banana farm on the lava fl...

  • Lava Bombs 2: The Reconstruction Premieres on La Palma at Teatro Chico cinema. The hard-hitting film follows on from the prequel Lava Bombs: Truths Behind the Volcano, and analyses the current situation on the island and the progress of reconstruction of the island, through the voices of those affec...

  • • GeoTenerife attends Cities on Volcanoes: GeoTenerife and international collaborators attended the Cities on Volcanoes Conference in Antigua, Guatemala, to share their research and lessons learnt from La Palma with a global volcanological audience •Current aid summary: The public resources reaching...

Lava Bombs' Part 1 Protagonists

We are committed to open communication and thus we make the full interviews of the protagonists featured in the documentaries available for free for teaching and research purposes on our YouTube page.

Andrea, originally a German citizen, has lived in La Palma for decades, raised her family here and has taken on Spanish nationality. She lost her home and two rental properties during the eruption. We follow her story through Lava Bombs Part 1 and 2.

Yanira Leal Rodriguez is a resident of La Palma from Todoque who lost her home during the eruption. Her family home was next to the famous Todoque church, of great significance to the local community, which was also destroyed by the volcano. Her grandfather lost his home in the 1949 eruption of the San Juan volcano and rebuilt the family home in Todoque only for them to lose it in the 2021 eruption. 

Bali Díaz Lorenzo is a La Palma local who lost her home in Todoque during the eruption. 

Naira Espinosa González is a La Palma resident from La Costa, Tazacorte who was evacuated and lost her home during the eruption.

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.

Clive Oppenheimer, Professor of Volcanology at the University of Cambridge, who has previously appeared in a Volcanology documentary produced by Werner Herzog

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

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.

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.

Cristina Alcaine is a 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, and was close to the site of the eruption when it first started.

Javier Salinero is the Vice President of the Tierra Bonita Association, an NGO he helped set up during the volcanic eruption to raise money to directly help those affected through the sale of cycling jerseys and fundraising.

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)

Angel 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 (i.e. most of the eruptive phase of the emergency).

Julio Pérez Hernández is the director of the PEVOLCA steering committee, and in that role is in charge of the emergency response at Level 2 (i.e. most of the eruptive phase of the emergency).

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.

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.

Nieves Sánchez is a researcher for the Spanish Geological Survey (IGME), who has worked on projects related to the eavaluation of volcanic risk, as well as geophysical studies on La Palma.

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 lava flow simulations  to inform the emergency response.

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 this topic.

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

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.

Miguel Ángel Morcuende, the technical director of the Volcanic Emergency Plan of the Canary Islands (PEVOLCA) Steering Committee, was the “visible face” of the eruption. He presented daily updates on the evolution and response on TV alongside a representative of IGN (the Spanish National Geographic Institute).

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 who is instrumental in ongoing GeoTenerife projects. 

María José Blanco the head of the Spanish National Geographic Institute in the Canary Islands, heads up the Scientific Committee of PEVOLCA. IGN is the organisation legally responsible for volcanic monitoring in Spain. In this interview, Maria discusses the role of IGN in the Canary Islands and their role during the emergency.

Lava Bombs' Part 2 Protagonists

To learn more about the perspectives of our protagonists; The full interview will be available on our YouTube channel soon.

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Hugo Betancourt and Melissa Rodríquez lost their home in the eruption and spent months sharing with family and struggling to register their paperwork before being offered temporary accommodation in a wooden home.

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Juan Antonio Rodríguez Rodríguez, the chairman of the bar in La Palma, discusses the shortcomings in the reconstruction response and the need to change the law to ensure people can receive more equitable and timely help.

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Noelia Garciá Leal, Mayor of Los Llanos de Aridane. Responsible for the municipality with the highest number of affected residents, Noelia discusses the challenges of helping so many people with such a wide variety of requirements and circumstances.

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Samu Cáceres Leal. After his participation in Part 1, we follow Samu as he struggles to build a new home for his family and witness the barriers and struggles he encounters along the way.

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Andrea. We follow Andrea’s struggles to start again after seeing the impact of losing her home and two rental properties in Part 1, and she reflects on the future of tourism in La Palma.

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Melania Martín, of church charity Caritas, discusses the essential role Caritas and other charity organisations have played during the recovery, supporting residents who lost everything and are now living in limbo. Despite large numbers of aid being spoken about, the reality she sees on the ground is very different.

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Anselmo Pestana Padrón, the Spanish government delegate in the Canary Islands. In Lava Bombs 2, he says the Government has been the “absorbent cotton” that has helped the island in the recovery, supporting the Canary Islands government and the island Cabildo.  

 

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Jennifer Sánchez, President of the Las Manchas Neighbourhood Association, outlines the many challenges residents have faced as they struggle to recover after the eruption.

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Mariano Hernández Zapata, President of La Palma’s Cabildo, discusses the difficulties the island government is facing post-eruption, as responsibility for the management of the ongoing emergency falls back to them.

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Raúl Camacho, Tourism and Sports Councillor for La Palma talks about the need for La Palma to grow its tourism sector after the emergency and the difficulty of attracting investors to the island

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Fran Garlaz, who owns and runs EcoFina Plantalogica, discusses the impact of the eruption and the recovery process on his sustainable multi-crop farm.

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Mónica Viña Salguero, headmistress of the CEIP La Laguna school, discusses the lack of progress on rebuilding the infant school and the impact on the students and their families.

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Cecilia García Hernandez, Spokesperson for the platform against the Coast Road, discusses in Lava Bombs 2, how farms unaffected by the eruption would be destroyed by the construction of a new road.

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Elías Navarro, Spokesperson for the Platform Against the Coast Road, discusses the fight against the new coastal road.

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Juan Morín, Member of the Platform of Neighbours affected by Tajogaite Volcano, discusses the lack of coordination between administrations and the need for a new Volcano Law.

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Hector Fernando Izquierdo Triana, is the special commissioner for the La Palma Reconstruction appointed by the Spanish President. He speaks to the many challenges the authorities are facing, and the need to reevaluate for future events of this kind.

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Sergio Rodriquez, Mayor of El Paso, expresses that the expectations that the Government had created for recovery could not be met and underscores the need for better communication (even when the messages are difficult) and community involvement.

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Monica Riverol, La Palma resident, has been very vocal in the reconstruction, and in the film, she forcefully outlines the frustration felt by Palmeros.

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Stavros Meletlidis is a volcanologist with IGN (Instituto Geográfico National), the institution legally responsible for monitoring volcanoes in the Canary Islands. He calls for locals to accept that the Canary Islands are volcanic – and we must all learn to live with that reality in order to be more resilient in future. 

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Terry and Fiona are British expats living in El Corazoncillo, Las Manchas. Their home survived the eruption but suffered extensive damage caused by ash and we witness their ongoing struggle to make it habitable again when little or no aid or information is available to help them with some of the big decisions they need to make.

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Omar and Margaret‘s home was buried under 12 meters of lava. After a year of living in cramped accommodation sharing with family, they were offered temporary accommodation in a controversial development made from adapted shipping containers. Two years on from the eruption they are still struggling with paperwork to qualify for state aid to support them to build a new home.

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Angel Victor Torres, President of the Canary Islands government, was invited to participate in Lava Bombs 2. 

Exclusive screenings for the affected residents

We ground-truth our films by providing screenings of our documentaries for residents before international release to allow Palmeros to ask questions, comment on, and discuss the contents of the film.

Part 1

One year after the eruption, GeoTenerife held two intimate private viewings of the documentary for Palmero’s. We wanted them to have a chance to see the documentary before it went for international release. Both screenings were emotional and necessary events, with GeoTenerife mediating a discussion about the documentary afterwards between scientists, politicians, emergency managers, and residents. GeoTenerife also organises viewings of Lava Bombs: Truths Behind the Volcano in la Palma schools, universities, and conferences for teaching purposes. 

Part 2

On March 17th 2024, the La Palma residents impacted by the Volcan de Tajogaite 2021 eruption, were invited to be the first to see LAVA BOMBS 2: The Reconstruction. For many, it was the first time Palmeros had seen drone footage of the destruction the volcano had caused to their community. This screening allowed Palmeros to give feedback, comments, and input before the release of Lava Bombs 2 this summer. Due to the resident feedback being universally positive, published below, another viewing is being organised for locals.

Reviews and Resident feedback

Watch it now

LAVA BOMBS: Truths behind the Volcano, winner at the Madrid International Film Festival, winner at the Nature Without Borders International Film Festival, and nominated for Dublin Movie Awards, Meraki Film Festival, Awareness Festival, and the Madrid Arthouse Film Festival.

Lava Bombs: Truths of the Volcano is available on Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Apple TV (in 4K).

Lava Bombs: The Reconstruction will be released in Summer 2024. Follow our social media to stay up to date with our release schedule. 

Credits

Alex

Director of LAVA BOMBS: Truths Behind the Volcano; Executive Producer of LAVA BOMBS: The Reconstruction

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 chaotically on an iPhone in a shower of ash and rivers of lava as Tajogaite roared into life was elevated to full feature status. 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.

Sharon-2

Producer of LAVA BOMBS: Truths Behind the Volcano; Director and Producer of LAVA BOMBS: The Reconstruction

Sharon Backhouse, director of GeoTenerife, 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. 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-1

Consultant of LAVA BOMBS: Truths Behind the Volcano; Lead Consultant of LAVA BOMBS: The Reconstruction

Ben Ireland is GeoTenerife’s Lead Science Advisor and is currently undertaking a PhD in volcanology at the University of Bristol. Ben acted as lead consultant on the LavaBombs project to ensure the messages in Lava Bombs had a secure and verifiable scientific base. Ben also led the curation of the wealth of footage, research, data and reports surrounding the eruption to help create VolcanoStories, an open-access multi-media research project.

Consultant of LAVA BOMBS: The Reconstruction

Ajay Wynne Jones has an MSci in Earth and Environmental Science, with two dissertations in lava flow dynamics, from Lancaster University. Ajay is VolcanoStories’ Content Co-ordinator, researching and writing about La Palma’s reconstruction process, and acted as a consultant to LAVA BOMBS: The Reconstruction.

Rosie-1

Consultant of LAVA BOMBS: Truths Behind the Volcano and LAVA BOMBS: The Reconstruction

Rosie Rice is a PhD candidate researcher in Geography from the University of Cambridge, with an academic background in both physical and human geography. Like Ben, Rosie travelled to La Palma with GeoTenerife to assist with the reporting on the eruption and also acted as a consultant on the LAVA BOMBS project. 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 scientific weight to the key messages of Lava Bombs.

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Aerial Photography and assistant producer of LAVA BOMBS 2.

Tamsin Backhouse acted as the secondary drone pilot for footage captured for the Lava Bombs documentaries and as an assistant producer for Lava Bombs 2. She also acted as social media manager for GeoTenerife, helping to promote the film alongside our other projects.

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Aerial Photography for the LAVA BOMBS Documentaries

Samu Caceres is an incredible local drone pilot we have been working with from the start capturing footage of the eruption and the recovery on La Palma. 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.

Co-writer and performer of LAVA BOMBS 2 Original Music

Mario Rodriquez, a local Palmero who co-wrote an original song for Lava Bombs 2, his beautiful music helped to distil the messages of the documentary.

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Director of Photography for the LAVA BOMBS Documentaries

MediaRook; Camera Roberto Nazco, and second camera Jesús Arrocha.

Animator for LAVA BOMBS 2 

Harjoth Soor, one of our 2022 graduate Geointerns, who has specialised in science communication using the medium of art and animation, designed and animated the scenes in LAVA BOMBS 2.

Collaborators

ILoveTheWorld 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.
The Instituto Español de Oceanografia (IEO) and Eugenio Fraile Nuez granted us incredible access aboard their research vessel Angeles Aivarino to learn more about the underwater research connected to the eruption, and provided us with fantastic images and videos relating to their research.
Guardia Civil who enabled an extensive helicopter overflight of Teneguia, the volcanoes route, and of Tajogaite volcano so we could film dramatic comparative shots.
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.
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 of the eruption.
IGN Spain and Carmen López opened up the archive to us.
Considered to be one of the most prestigious nature documentary directors in Spain, 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 at the end Lava Bombs, showing La Palma from across the ocean to the top of Cumbre Vieja.
We would like to thank Rubén López, a Volcanologist for the IGN, in particular for sharing their close-up footage of the eruption.
Samu Caceres is an incredible local drone pilot we have been working with from the start capturing footage of the eruption and the recovery on La Palma. 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
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 use of drones in science.