LAST DAYS AT
ABOUT THE FILM
After the most destructive fire in California history destroys the town of Paradise, the end of the school year takes on added meaning for two seniors, Harmony and Kody, and their beloved teacher, Mrs. Partain. 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, capriciously 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.
Told from the perspective of America's youngest climate refugees, Last Days at Paradise High is an intimate portrait of fading youth and the search for home after it's gone.
On November 8, 2018 the largest wildfire in California history destroyed the town of Paradise. The fire left 85 people dead and displaced nearly 30,000 survivors from their homes in a day. Many moved to the nearby town of Chico into temporary homes as they awaited looming decisions about what came next and where they would go.
Although the original Paradise High building survived the fire — flanked by burned houses, streams of melted metal, and miles of ash— it was deemed too dangerous to use for regular classes. Students were forced to finish the school year in an airport office building hastily converted into a makeshift camp of classrooms, called “The Fortress.”
Increasing traumatic events around the nation and world—from school shootings to COVID-19—are bringing a new generation of young adults into adulthood with inherited trauma. These events are creating a generation of survivors with a shared understanding of the impermanence of our world, anxiety about impending disaster, and a resolve to embark upon radical change. As filmmakers we hope to honor and highlight their stories so that they not be forgotten
The ultimate aim with this film is to include the good with the bad, the familiar with the unexpected, to broaden the perception and deepen the understanding of a disaster and its unforeseen impacts. We want to show both young and old generations how they might live beyond the grim issues of the day, to remind them of the complications and joys of youth, and to demonstrate, through the examples of our subjects, the opportunity for collective healing
EMILY THOMAS, DIRECTOR
Emily is a documentary filmmaker based in Oakland, CA. She seeks out stories around the globe and in her own backyard that connect cultures, embolden the voiceless and spark curiosity. Her work as a videographer has taken her around the world from Palestine to Guatemala to Detroit. Her most recent short documentary, “Blessings of Liberty,” was nominated for Best Short at the 2019 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival and screened at festivals around the country and will air on PBS stations across the midwest this summer. She is a proud graduate of UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism's documentary film program.
DEREK KNOWLES, DIRECTOR
Derek is a documentary filmmaker whose work has been featured as a Vimeo Staff pick and on outlets like The Atlantic, National Geographic, and PBS. He sees documentary filmmaking as a wonderful excuse to tell local stories about the people and places that aren’t often seen onscreen - letter carriers, Oakland skateboarders, squid fishers, and plant lovers, among others. His most recent film, "After the Fire," winner of the Tribeca Film Institute's "If/Then" Shorts Award - follows three residents of his hometown in the months following 2017’s historic northern California wildfires and premiered at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in February 2019.
PETER RICHARDSON, EP
Peter’s thoughtful and compelling documentary work has gained widespread recognition, including the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary and an Emmy Nomination for Best Documentary for “How to Die in Oregon”, his second feature, which broadcast on HBO. He has worked extensively on premium documentary series, most recently showrunning two seasons of “QB1: Beyond the Lights”, a 10-part documentary series about high school football, Executive Produced by Peter Berg. Prior to his work on QB1, Richardson was Series Director of “Dark Net” and co-Executive Producer of “The Circus: The Greatest Political Show on Earth”, both for Showtime Networks.