Rebuilding Paradise Parent Guide
There are lots of issues here, big and small, and the movie does a good job of raising them, even if it can't deal with them all in depth.
Parent Movie Review
“I don’t sleep,” a woman says as she fights back tears. “That’s when the real nightmares take over”. Haunting her nights is the way her father died - in his wheelchair, trying to escape the flames that engulfed the town of Paradise in 2018. Tragically, her grief is widely shared. The Camp Fire killed 85 people and destroyed 18,000 buildings, leaving most of Paradise’s 26,000 residents homeless and traumatized.
Two years after the largest wildfire in California’s history, director Ron Howard has documented the arduous process of rebuilding a piece of paradise in Northern California. Mixing cell and dashcam footage from the fire with interviews with town residents, Howard creates a detailed portrait of a suffering yet resilient community. The documentary achieves a human touch by showing us the town through the eyes of its people. There’s Matt Gates, the police officer who watched his house burn down and whose 13 hour days keep him away from his wife and two young children. Woody Culleton, seventy-something and stubborn, praises the community that supported him on his path from town drunk to town mayor. And Michelle John, School Superintendent, has the staggering task of overseeing the assessment of eight burned or damaged schools, locating thousands of students scattered across the state, and making sure there will be a high school graduation.
Rebuilding the fire-ravaged community is a task of incredible complexity – demolishing ruins, managing environmental contamination, and gearing up the civic infrastructure for hundreds of building projects each year. Residents are understandably angry and anxious and the city administration is just as understandably stressed and overwhelmed. The state government also grapples with the city’s rebuilding and one of the most interesting moments in the movie is a debate over whether communities should be allowed to build in fire-prone areas. There are lots of issues here, big and small, and the movie does a good job of bringing them up, even if it can’t deal with them all in depth.
Rebuilding Paradise is a tale of man-made natural disaster – the fire was started by faulty electrical equipment owned by PG&E and aggravated by a five year drought related to global climate change. But it’s also a story of human resilience, cooperation, and ingenuity. While the larger issues are dealt with in the documentary, it’s the small human moments that really stand out – lighting a Christmas tree at the rec centre, watching the town’s high school graduation, seeing hope in a child’s face. While it’s obvious that Paradise can’t go back to what it used to be, it’s clear that it will once again be “home” for many of its people.Directed by Ron Howard. Starring Matt Gates, Woody Culleton, Michelle John. Running time: 95 minutes. Theatrical release July 31, 2020. Updated July 31, 2020
Watch the trailer for Rebuilding Paradise
Rating & Content Info
Why is Rebuilding Paradise rated PG-13? Rebuilding Paradise is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for intense scenes of peril, thematic elements and some strong language.
Violence: Multiple scenes of fires in the hills and burning down homes. Scenes of humans and animals in peril. Scenes of burned and destroyed homes. Body bags are seen briefly.
Sexual Content: None noted.
Profanity: Swear words are in the single digits, with three terms of deity, two scatological curses, and two sexual expletives. There are a few other minor curses.
Alcohol / Drug Use: A man drinks beer. A man is briefly seen smoking a cigarette.
Page last updated July 31, 2020
Rebuilding Paradise Parents' Guide
For more information about the fire in Paradise, check the following links.
Los Angeles Times: Here’s how Paradise ignored warnings and became a deathtrap
PBS Frontline: Camp Fire: By the Numbers
Vox: The Survivors
The Washington Post: Forced from Paradise
Scientists agree that California’s fires are going to get worse.
The New York Times: Why Does California Have So Many Wildfires?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
For a detailed look at the Camp Fire, you can read Fire in Paradise: An American Tragedy. Written by Alastair Gee and Dani Anguiano, this book uses hundreds of interviews conducted by two California reporters to track the fire in, evacuation of, and rebuilding of Paradise. For a first person experience geared at young readers, you can turn to I Escaped the California Camp Fire by Scott Peters and S D Brown.
California wildfires are becoming a near annual event in the evening news. A look at fighting fires on a global level is found in Michael Kodas’ Megafire: The Race to Extinguish a Deadly Epidemic of Flame. Gary Ferguson also examines firefighting strategies in a changing global climate in Land on Fire: The New Reality of Wildfire in the West.
For a look at the role fire plays in shaping earth’s ecosystem, turn to Andrew C Scott’s Burning Planet: The Story of Fire Through Time.