Public Television is one of those things that, as an economist, I should abhor – it is something that cannot exist without taxpayer subsidy. And yet, when it comes to the sorts of programming I most enthusiastically embrace, PBS is the only place it is found. Annoyingly, most of those programs are only aired during their annual fund-raising campaigns. As a result, purchasing the video cassette or DVD of these films is a practice I continue to exercise.
Preceding Disney’s Soarin’ Over California by nearly five years, KPBS’ San Diego Above All is perhaps the finest travelogue ever made on San Diego. Although by modern standards its video quality is markedly lacking, the film remains a well-nigh perfect manifestation and tribute to the city. Shot on crystal clear winter days, and combining a specially commissioned musical score, well-placed sound effects, and the warm narrative voice of Richard Easton, the film encapsulates the spirit of this place as it was and as I like to believe it still is. In essence, the film orients San Diego within a tradition spinning outward from its Spanish colonial origin – revealing how we have grown and changed, while also revealing how deep our connection runs to those early days and makes us who we are. It is no mere commercial for San Diego. Instead, it is a love letter to the place where “people take time to be pleasant” – a letter so sincere that certain elements literally tug at the heartstrings (the moment one hears the train whistle in the distance while flying over the Goat Canyon Railway trestle – knowing that no train will ever cross it again – is particularly moving to haunting effect… but I’ll tell the story of that trestle later).
Several years ago, KPBS issued a new version of this film entitled San Diego – Above and Beyond. The film recycles much of the script of the 1996 film, grafting changes such as the Downtown expansion and Petco Park onto the original’s framework (and removing others, including the trestle described above). The final result lacked much of the charm of the original 1996 film – with the new film’s canned music, generic “pipes” narrator, and nearly omnipresent sunset hue, the narrative scope and emotional impact of the original film was lost. In a way, the new film represents what San Diego has become – a place one comes to undertake a series of “experiences” rather than to build a home and become a lifelong part of the San Diego story. And in that sense, with its bright-and-shiny high definition picture and youthful narrator, the new film is much more commercial and fast paced – decidedly un-San Diegan. Or, perhaps more accurately, it represents a millenial’s vision of San Diego.
As such, it has been several years since KPBS has screened San Diego Above All over its airwaves. Thus, because San Diego will occupy a position of prominence in future entries of this blog, and because this film coloured so much of my young impressions and vision of this unique earthly paradise and, as a result, will impact my ramblings on San Diego locales, I have seen it fit to take the liberty of digitizing my videocassette of this film and presenting it here for your viewing pleasure.
Notice: The author and publisher of this blog do not represent themselves as owners, assignors, or any party in interest in regards to the above linked video entitled “San Diego Above All.” Video has been offered here for neither profit nor compensation in the interests of providing public access to a film that is no longer commercially available. Publisher and author hereby expressly agree to remove said video upon notification by the copyright holder of such a wish.