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Sunday, August 2, 2020

Rebuilding Paradise - Documentary Review


The Documentary: Rebuilding Paradise

The Director: Ron Howard

The Story: The community of Paradise, California, a town in the Sierra Nevada foothills, attempts to rebuild after devastating wildfires in 2018.


The Review:
One of the most devastating fires in US history happened just a couple years ago in a town called Paradise in California. Director Ron Howard documents the rebuilding process that took months to get rolling and continues to this day. The film starts with the unrelenting and overwhelming power of the fire that destroyed most of the homes and buildings utilizing footage from people literally surrounded by flames.

After the raging fires have died down and the damage has been assessed, the documentary turns into a step by step accounting of people being displaced and finding new ways to survive while big corporations are found to be at fault for causing the fire in the first place. The main culprit in all of this is PG&E which failed to maintain their infrastructure causing their equipment to literally spark the fire into life during a time when it was the most dangerous time of the year for a fire to be sparked. We also get to learn how development and logging led to a set of conditions that eventually provided this worst case scenario to happen.

It's hard to say the movie is beautifully filmed given the destructive nature of the fires but it kind of is and it made me think way back to Howard's movie Backdraft that has some amazing camera work with fire in all sorts of situations. Now I know most of the actual footage was taken from people's phones and news cameras although Howard definitely has an eye for footage that shows off both the beauty and power of flames so at least some credit has to be given to him for assembling the documentary from available footage.

Rebuilding Paradise is very well put together documentary and sheds a light on a lot of our own failures as human beings in how we interact with our environment. Maybe this event and this film can help to nudge corporations towards a more compatible relationship with the planet we live on.


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