"Extremely Exciting Story"
A Compelling Documentary About The American Spirit
When Paradise, California literally burned to the ground, its residents rose up against monopolies, government restrictions and bureaucracy to take their town back.Posted by Movieguide on Friday, December 18, 2020
What You Need To Know:
REBUILDING PARADISE is one of the most exciting, captivating documentaries ever made. The movie opens in November 2018. The weather station in Paradise, California warns about high winds and a possibility of fires. Within hours, a brush fire goes from 10 acres to 18,000 acres, surrounding and destroying most of the town. As the fire rages, documentary footage shows people trying to drive out of Paradise. Some don’t make it. Eighty-five people die and get consumed by the fire. Three months later, a town council is held. People are upset about government restrictions on rebuilding and the attitude of the utility monopoly, which caused the fire. One year later, many people are still rebuilding their lives, despite many crises along the way.
REBUILDING PARADISE has a compelling worldview. It focuses on family and patriotic values and a prayer to Jesus, but no other mention of church or faith. The movie also contains some pro-entrepreneurial content, anti-utility content and lots of anti-government sentiment. REBUILDING PARADISE is a worthwhile movie besides being very exciting. However, caution is advised for children because of the scary fire scenes.
REBUILDING PARADISE is one of the most exciting, jeopardy filled, captivating documentaries ever made, with a compelling worldview focused on family and patriotic values and a prayer to Jesus, but no other mention of church in the town of Paradise in Northern California. The documentary REBUILDING PARADISE goes from the beginning of the massive Camp Fire, which destroyed most of Paradise in November 2018, to a year after the fire, where many people are rebuilding their lives, with lots of crises and obstacles along the way.
The movie opens with the weather station warning the people of Paradise that there are high winds and a possibility of fires. Officer Matt Gates is driving through the town of Paradise, a small over 100-year-old town where most of the people have been born, grew up and decided to settle. They all comment on the town having old-fashioned values, such as a Golden Nugget Beauty Queen, parades and town events.
After the first weather warning, the station reports there are 10 acres on fire. Within a few hours, the fire goes from 10 acres to 18,000 acres surrounding and destroying the town of Paradise.
As the fire rages, there’s documentary footage of people trying to drive out of their town, hitting firewalls and traffic jams and unable to take any of their possessions. All of this makes the movie’s first third one of the most exciting you’ll ever watch. One person is heard saying, “Lord, please, we need your help.” Other people are proclaiming, “Oh my God.” Meanwhile, the hospital, the old age home, and the schools are all being evacuated. The footage shows the town completely dark as midnight without a moon because of all the ash.
Eighty-five people die and get consumed by the raging fire. One old relative’s wheelchair was found yards away from his home, indicating that he was trying to flee the fire. Several people burned to death in their cars Several people afterwards, including the police officer, break down in tears. One of the major characters, Woody Culleton, who was 74 at the time of the movie, is a former mayor and is tough as nails but is devastated by the fire. Most people are displaced to makeshift tent cities, Red Cross shelters and makeshift prefab homes. Some rent mobile homes. Others move in with their relatives in nearby towns.
One of the positive figures is a school superintendent who struggles to get the displaced children educated, including graduating the high school senior class. Two of the local high school students talk about their love for Paradise. One of them mentions that behind his house was a Japanese cherry tree orchard and an open vista because the town was so small.
Three months after the fire, the town council tells everybody they can’t move back, which some of them are doing, to clean out their charred, burned out homes and start over, because FEMA won’t give them any reconstruction money until they clear the area and remove all of the chemical dangers.
At the town council meeting, many people speak out. Woody tells the council in plain language summarized here that, “You work for us, not the state or the federal government. You tell them we’re going to clean out our property and rebuild.”
Meanwhile, PG&E says it’s going to raise rates because of the costs of rebuilding the electrical guild. When PG&E officials come to town, the people say you [PG&E] caused this and need to carry the cost of rebuilding. PG&E actually did cause the fire because sparks from one of their transformers started the Camp Fire. Lawyers start filing cases against PG&E, and eventually PG&E gas to pay $13 million.
The question is, can Paradise rebuilt? Will the senior class graduate? Can marriages be restored?
There are some wonderful changes in people in the movie. For example, one schoolgirl says when she used to hear about other disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, she left it to the government to help those people hurt by the disaster, but now she and other students are raising money, clothing and other things to help people.
REBUILDING PARADISE is a worthwhile movie to watch, besides being very exciting. There is a caution for young children, because it is frightening, and there are deaths by fire. The movie has a couple borderline profanities and a few intense obscenities. There is also some pro-business content, patriotic values, and multiple anti-government and anti-monopolistic comments. There are also a few forestry people who complain about the logging in the 1920s, which removed the fire resistant trees, replacing them with quick-growing trees susceptible to fire. However, even the primary forestry person says there needs to be more controlled burning to prevent these massive fires. PG&E says it will take about 20 years to rebuild the electrical grid, but the fact of the matter is that someone should get rid of the bureaucracy and rebuild the grid. So, people in the movie have different opinions.
The only thing in the movie that stands out which raises questions is why there was no mention of church. There’s mention of schools, businesses, fire departments, police, and people’s homes, but no mention of church. This is very strange considering that the church is usually the first responder when there’s a crisis, and many people turn to God when there’s a crisis. That said, there’s still one prayer in the movie.
In reality, but not in the movie, though most church structures in Paradise burned down in the fire, some did not. Even for those churches, however, the homes of most of the congregants and pastors burned down. Now, the Christian ministries from the town are struggling to minister to their people who have fled to other nearby cities and other places. There are several relief ministries in the area, not only for Paradise but for other towns in the area that also suffered heavy damage from the Camp Fire.