Rebuilding Paradise review – ashes to ashes, dust to dust return to Paradise Lost

4

Summary

Ron Howard’s gripping documentary, Rebuilding Paradise, is a soul-stirring effort that honors those departed by focusing on the ones who picked up the pieces, grieved for their families, and lived to fight another day.

The fire started by an electric emission caused by Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s negligence was the most expensive disaster in 2018. Sadly, it seems to be topped every year. In total, there were over 16 billion dollars in insurance claims. There were over 150,000 acres of land burnt down to ash, which would put it in size of major top ten cities — it forwarded so quickly the majority of the acres burned within 48 hours. Nearly 20,000 buildings turned to dust, including an entire hospital and high school, and 30,000 people lost their homes. That, though, is beside the point, as 86 people perished.

Ron Howard’s gripping documentary, Rebuilding Paradise, is a soul-stirring effort. The documentary film’s riveting opening ten minutes arouses genuine fear and makes your palms sweat as you watch in horror authenticated videos of residents attempting to escape the blaze. If anyone has ever driven in a “white-out” in the snow you’ll know how vulnerable that experience can be; just imagine driving through black-out smoke and the only time you can make out the road you are driving on it looks like you are floating on lava from the fires below. People had been caught off guard, so much so doctors were still performing surgery at the local hospital when the evacuation notices had gone out.

Howard is really interested in the aftermath of a natural disaster and how individuals, families, and communities rebuild their lives instead of taking a hard look at PG&E’s culpability. Rebuilding Paradise does a wonderful job detailing the long road ahead and that many current residents most likely won’t see the completed projects. At the same time, the facts are looked at so quickly you have to wonder if the film was cut in some way to fit a National Geographic television-friendly 90 minutes. The addition to addressing global environmental disasters, that happen annually, instead of more of the human interest element — including a fascinating look at the cause of California wildfires and mandated “self-burns” — sometimes takes away from Rebuilding Paradise‘s distinct point of view.

Those, though, are minor complaints of an overall strong documentary effort. The loss of property and money is tangible and can be replaced. A total of 86 loved ones lost their lives, many in their cars trying to escape, and the majority over 60 years of age; in a staggering amount of time residents went from earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Howard’s Rebuilding Paradise honors those departed by focusing on the ones who picked up the pieces, grieved for their families, and lived to fight another day.


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M.N. Miller

M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.

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