Despite the growing ubiquity of California’s wind-driven megafires, 2018’s Camp Fire remains a uniquely horrific disaster, a perfect storm: in a matter of hours, on November 8, an entire town disappeared. A year later, Paradise is “recovering,” but though the cleanup has been dramatic, the statistics still tell their own story. 317 building permits have been issued and 12 homes have been rebuilt, out of the nearly 19,000 structures destroyed. Once a town of 27,000 people, Paradise was declared “rural” by the state after a house-to-house survey in April showed barely 2,000 residents remaining. 85 lives were lost.
Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari’s 40-minute Fire in Paradise, released on Netflix last week, doesn’t really put its subject in context. It doesn’t spend much time on the scope of the disaster — which affected neighboring Magalia and Concow as well — nor does it explore what the future of the town will be. Other videos and documentaries do a much better job of that, and if what you want is that kind of big picture, you have a lot of options. A local filmmaker made a documentary within the first month (as have a variety of media outlets), the California Forestry department recently put out a short video focused on fire suppression, Vice made a documentary, and PBS has released multiple documentaries that do a good job of broadening the context. Ron Howard has been working on a National Geographic documentary that will focus on the long aftermath, and his won’t be the last, I’m sure.
Fires are photogenic. And because it’s the 21st century, a tremendous amount of first-person footage of the fire was taken by residents, much of which you can find on the internet right now, in terrifyingly raw form. The heart of Fire in Paradise is this kind of footage, in place of statistics or “expert” commentary. Instead, the film is quite short, terrifyingly intense, and skillfully manipulative in either the best or the worst way, mixing bloodcurdling cell-phone footage with studio interviews of people who all seem on the verge of weeping. Organized as an hour-by-hour account of the worst of the fire, it’s incredibly effective in splicing adrenaline-pumping footage together with halting monologues on the lingering effects of trauma. One cut in the middle made me gasp out loud, a sudden jump from two …
Source:: The Week – Entertainment