There’s been a lot of Oscar buzz for Ron Howard’s drama “Hillbilly Elegy” with Amy Adams and Glenn Close premiering Nov. 24 on Netflix. But thi Oscar winner is also a strong contender in Best Documentary Feature for his well-received film “Rebuilding Paradise.” It was unveiled in January at Sundance, released theatrically and digitally in July, and will air commercial free Nov. 8 on National Geographic.
The NatGeo premiere is on the second anniversary of the devastating Camp Fire that destroyed almost all of the picturesque town of Paradise, California and surrounding areas killing 85 people, uprooting 50,000 residents and destroying some 95% of the town’s structures including hospitals and schools.
In “Rebuilding Paradise,” Howard, who won Oscars for producing and directing 2001’s “A Beautiful Mind,” vividly captures the harrowing firestorm that took 10 days to contain; the bravery of the firefighters and police, the tragedy of lives and homes lost; and the despair of families who either leave the city or decide to stay often living in trailers and other temporary housing.
But “Rebuilding Paradise” also showcases the resilience of the townspeople-like Woody Culleton, the town’s former “drunk” who sobered up to become the mayor. He not only decides to stay, he gets the loan to build a new home.
Howard also shines his spotlight on the strong, no-nonsense Michelle John, the superintendent of schools; young parents Kayla and John Cox, who, along with their extended family, lost their home; school psychologist Carly Ingersoll; high school seniors Zach Boston and Brandon Burke; police officer Matt Gates, who actually watched his own home burn down as he was trying to save his fellow townspeople; and mother Krystle Young who lost her home, and keeps getting uprooting moving from a hotel room to a trailer to a FEMA trailer parker.
“Rebuilding Paradise” rates an impressive 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. As L.A. Times film critic Justin Chang observed, the film is about “redemption as well as destruction, which you might guess from both the title and Howard’s well-known affinity for uplift. But while the filmmaker keeps his eyes peeled for every possible shred of good news in the wake of disaster, he has little interest in peddling easy inspiration, the stakes are too colossal, the devastation too raw.”
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