Nat Geo Documentary Films Nabs Ron Howard Look at California Wildfires (Exclusive)

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Ron Howard

'Rebuilding Paradise,' which Brian Grazer is producing for Imagine Documentaries, will look at the conflagration's aftermath in the town of Paradise, California.

National Geographic Documentary Films has commissioned a documentary, Rebuilding Paradise, which Ron Howard is directing and Brian Grazer is producing for their Imagine Documentaries. The film will follow the community of Paradise, California, the town in the Sierra Nevada foothills that was devastated by wildfires in November, as it attempts to rebuild. 

Howard, whose mother-in-law once lived in Paradise and who has relatives in nearby Redding, visited the town in December, viewing the destruction caused by the Nov. 8 Camp Fire. "You have to see it to really believe it," he told the Paradise Post at the time. "And you have to talk to the people to really feel the level of both the inspiration and, also, the struggle."

Rebuilding Paradise is promising a microcosmic look at the growing global repercussions of climate change through a community destroyed by one of the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in U.S. history. The film will follow the refugees of Paradise — the families, volunteers on the frontlines of town restoration, community leaders, school and government officials and first responders — the citizens whose lives were touched by tragedy in the aftermath over the course of a year as they come together to rebuild amid the devastation of such a natural disaster.

"The people of Paradise lost everything in the blink of an eye," Howard said Thursday in a statement. "The way in which the citizens are coming together to rebuild is beautiful and hopeful — but no one should have to live through this. Theirs is a cautionary tale about the impending effects of climate change and what it takes to restore the communities ravaged by it. Paradise could be any of us."  

"National Geographic is known for turning the lens towards timely, provocative and globally relevant stories," said Carolyn Bernstein, executive vp global scripted content and documentary films for National Geographic. "As we continue to cement our place in the doc films world, we're committed to partnering with filmmakers like Ron Howard who are pushing the limits of cinematic storytelling." 

Nat Geo Documentary Films just picked up its first Oscar nomination for Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin's Free Solo, a film about rock climber Alex Honnold, which has grossed more than $13 million domestically to date. In its short history, the two-year-old documentary unit — which recently hired new vp Ryan Harrington — has been involved in such films as the Sundance Audience Award-winning Science Fair, the Emmy Award-winning LA 92 and Jane and the Dupont Award-winning Hell on Earth

Imagine Entertainment is also among the producers of the limited dramatic series Genius, airing on National Geographic, which has examined the lives of Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso.