Last Days at Paradise High
On November 8, 2018, the Camp Fire forever changed the lives of the residents of Paradise, California. It left 85 people dead, torched hundreds of buildings, and displaced an estimated 30,000 people in one day. Caught in the middle of the state’s worst-ever wildfire are the seniors and teachers of Paradise High, who are now forced to finish their final year of high school in a cramped office building at the nearby town’s airport. Each day is a reminder of the fire — the rotating news crews, the long commute to “Airport School,” their claustrophobic temporary homes in a new town. As the end of school approaches, these displaced teens grapple with their fading youth like their peers across the country — struggling to stay motivated in class, fighting to be heard, asserting newfound independence, and deciding what to do next, after graduation. But these moments of classic teenage drama are routinely ruptured by jarring reminders that they have lived through one of the greatest disasters in their country’s history. Last Days at Paradise High is a microscopic look at the growing national phenomenon of mass tragedy and climate change-fueled dislocation, told in an intimate documentary portrait of the final days of adolescence. It is a classic coming-of-age story that asks, who do we become in the wake of disaster?