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When Paradise, California burned, its teens became instant climate refugees

On 8 November 2018, the largest wildfire in California’s history burned through Butte County, claiming the lives of at least 85 people and forcing the evacuation of some 50,000 others. Residents of towns such as Paradise, Concow and Magalia lost everything, from their homes to the treasured possessions they had acquired over a lifetime. In this documentary, filmed during the summer of 2019, the directors Emily Thomas and Derek Knowles explore the impact of the wildfires through the lens of final-year high-school students at Paradise High and one of their teachers. In the interviews, the students grapple with their traumatic displacement, the question of ‘home’ and the steps they must take to start anew – just like the millions of climate refugees worldwide. With adulthood fast approaching, the pressure to savour the last of their already disrupted childhood looms large. But from the ashes of despair, they find resilience and hope in what lies ahead, united by a desire to secure a safer environmental future.

4 April 2022

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