Four stars. Not rated, and suitable for all ages
By Derrick Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 4.26.15
Our digital age has unleashed countless miracles, and one of the best is the growing cornucopia of archival material that is becoming available to anybody with Internet access.
Time was, researchers or curious civilians were limited to hard copies of vintage documents, audio recordings and newsreel footage stored on site, at locations with limited public hours ... if they offered visiting hours at all. If you lived in San Francisco and wanted to investigate something that existed only at some repository in San Diego, that represented a significant investment of time and expense. Not surprisingly, most folks simply wouldn’t bother.
Things are different today, with access to such materials no more difficult than firing up a laptop in your living room.
And, as a charming and informative new documentary amply demonstrates, you simply won’t believe what has become available.
The Sacramento Picture is written, directed and produced by Sacramento-area historian and film critic Matías Antonio Bombal, who also narrates (and has a talent for deliciously droll asides). Editing and post-production are by Chad E. Williams, and the two of them have assembled a lively 95-minute glimpse of what can be found at the Center for Sacramento History.
The film will screen one time only, at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 29, at Sacramento’s Tower Theater. Tickets are modestly priced, and the experience is well worth the cost.
The Center, the larger regional history repository in California, has a mission to preserve and protect its collection, while also making its contents available to the general public. The material is slowly being digitized and made available via the web, thanks to the California Audiovisual Preservation Project, a joint effort between UC Berkeley and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Bombal’s film is an engaging blend of archival footage and on-camera commentary by folks such as historian William Burg, journalist Ginger Rutland and beloved former KCRA newsman Stan Atkinson, who provide context for the video sequences.
They’re quite a treat.
The oldest footage, dating back to 1910, reveals the scope of Sacramento’s then-quite enormous hops-growing industry. Another vintage clip, filmed on opening day (April 6) of the 1920 “Base-ball season” at Sacramento’s Buffalo Park, shows streetcars bringing throngs of fans to watch their beloved Sacramento Senators take on the visiting Seattle Indians.
Buffalo Park sat at the corner of Broadway and Riverside, where a Target store and parking lot are found today, just a few blocks from the Tower Theater.