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New Documentary Examines Mass Exodus From California

Victor Davis Hanson: 'We Took Paradise And Turned It Into Hell'

Former residents and current Californians might relate to personal accounts from the Golden State highlighting struggles with skyrocketing crime, a flailing education system, new construction hurdles and a growing homelessness epidemic in Leaving California: The Untold Story, a new documentary from The Epoch Times.

“We took paradise and turned it into hell,” says Hoover Institute historian Victor Davis Hanson of California, who is featured as one of the interviewees throughout the documentary.

Leaving California, which debuted Friday, April 21, follows Epoch Times editor and host of California Insider Siyamak Khorrami as he interviews former California residents who detail their struggle in the Golden State and recount their decision to leave.

“I have the opportunity to reach as many people possible about the true hardships in our state,” says Khorrami.  “While their stories are frustrating and heartbreaking, it’s inspiring to witness the tenacity and will of the people who are surviving despite their circumstances. Hopefully others, after seeing this film, will be equally inspired to act and make change.”

Former residents, some of whom owned businesses in California, criticize recent efforts to defund police and soft-on-crime policies enacted by California lawmakers. The interviewees argue these efforts have led to skyrocketing crime as officers see no incentive in pursuing illegal acts. Business owners ultimately are left with the burden of maintaining their shop and inventory as the state continues to adopt a “criminals first” mentality.

“Property crime in California is not important,” says former resident and Oakland laundromat owner Derek Drake of the state’s aversion to policing crime.


Leaving California also provides an inside look at the California education system as former residents criticize the Golden State’s implementation of standardization in schoolwork. Others criticize the state for lacking classroom opportunities for gifted and advanced students.

The state’s failing education system also crosses over into California’s crime statistics as 70% of state prison inmates have not received a high school diploma, according to former Democratic Majority Leader in the California State Senate Gloria Romero.

California has an education budget of $128 billion, but maintains the lowest scores among students in math and reading. The documentary further details how the state’s education system leaves students suffering at the hands of teachers’ unions.

Leaving California also presents student education statistics that exhibit no improvement over a seven year period despite the state’s education budget.

Epoch Times’ documentary notes over 802,000 residents left the Golden State between the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and summer 2022.

While Leaving California features harrowing stories from former Californians, the documentary also highlights positive efforts to change the course of the Golden State from within as some residents have begun grassroots efforts.

“The hope that it gave me is the future of California is in the hands of these people,” says Khorrami.

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