The film tells the story of the mudslides that killed 23 people in Southern California in January 2018, including many friends and neighbors of Lowe. His community in Montecito was in the center of the destruction, which resulted from the Thomas Fire, which burned for more than a month at the end of 2017. (Check out the trailer above.)
Soil scorched by the fire was less able to absorb rainwater, so when heavy seasonal rains fell in January, massive mudslides resulted. Entire hillsides came down, sweeping boulders, cars and houses into the destructive path of the slide.
Lowe filmed his conversations with survivors and first responders, who share their harrowing personal experiences. The film also explores the role of climate change in exacerbating the destruction.
“When a disaster of this magnitude struck so close to home, killing friends and neighbors, I wanted the world to know our story. It is one of the unspeakable (and perhaps even preventable) tragedies, yet one that shows resilience and hope,” Lowe said. “And just maybe, we can learn a lesson or two to prevent it from happening again.”
Along with climate change, the film weighs other factors, including regulation and oversight of power utilities. Ventura County Fire Department investigators, along with teams from Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service, determined that the Thomas Fire was started by two power lines that slapped together during high winds.
The film is executive produced by Rory Karpf and comes from Lowe’s production company, loweProfile. Bloomberg Philanthropies is also a partner in the production.
On Friday, the Paley Center for Media will host a panel discussion about the film on YouTube, moderated by Katie Couric. Lowe take part in the talk along with John Owen Lowe; Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr., president and founder of the Hip Hop Caucus; Sierra Club official Mary Anne Hitt; and Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Taylor.