Opening night: Sascha Rice’s “California State of Mind: The Legacy of Pat Brown”
With relatively modest pomp and circumstance, the Santa Cruz Film Festival kicked off its 11th year on Thursday night at the Del Mar Theatre, although not without a technical hitch (or several). Ultimately, the opening night menu had to be flipped; the feature film screened first, followed by the Good Times/Impact/SCFF screenwriting contest winners short film program, which was originally scheduled to precede the feature. But if the night was destined to be an unpredictable one due to those aforementioned technical difficulties, it’s lucky, then, that the selected entrée delivered so reliably.
Sascha Rice’s documentary California State of Mind: The Legacy of Pat Brown, which I unfortunately missed when it played my hometown festival last October, is peas-and-carrots nutritious—a compliment that nevertheless undersells how fully watchable the film is. Composed largely of priceless archival footage and interviews with numerous political figures, the film covers the San Francisco native’s two productive terms as governor of California, subject matter that proves timely when framed in a contemporary context—which, of course, involves Brown’s son Jerry, the current governor.
The film owes much of its success to editors Lauren Giordano, Claire Chandler, and Doug Blush, who must have combed through a suffocating amount of footage to craft a detailed documentary of swift pace. As directed by Rice, Brown’s granddaughter, it’s a fairly even-handed work, albeit one that’s probably more valuable as an informative text (particularly for someone of my age) and as a personal entry in the family album. Which is to say, it doesn’t reinvent the form, but it certainly provides a firm anchor for the remainder of the festival—during which I hope to catch as many films as I can, and indeed, write about them with the care and skill they deserve; you’re welcome to join me.
‘California State of Mind: The Legacy of Pat Brown,’ with The Good Times/Impact/SCFF Screenwriting Contest Winners, will screen again on May 15 at 1 p.m., at The Nickelodeon, 210 Lincoln St., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $3/Wild Card Weekday. For more information, visit santacruzfilmfestival.org.