Alta California Screen Play

Synopsis

  • The factual history of this battle for the survival of the mission Indians of Alta California provides the backdrop to the fictional story of Paco Palido, a half-blood. 
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  • MAIN CHARACTERS:

    Paco Palido (fictional).  A mixed blood.  Mother killed; village destroyed.  Existential quest for a home.

    Padre Junipero Serra (historical).  Proud, arrogant, gained sainthood.

    Captain Felipe de Neve.  Challenges Serra.  California’s forgotten man.

    Padre Crespi (historical).  Less zealous than Serra.

    Maria (fictional).  Female neophyte (baptized native).  Passive.

    Ifapi (fictional).  Contrast to Maria.  “Wild” native young woman.

     

     

    SYNOPSIS

    BACKSTORY

    As he stares at the Madonna and Child, Paco Palido (20), a mixed-blood, unbaptized California Indian recalls his past, of a world now lost to him:

  • His mother’s attempts to protect her young son as Spanish forces destroy their village.
  • Her final gift to him, a clamshell necklace, before her death. 
  • Paco’s refusal to replace this “heathen” necklace with a crucifix leads to repeated beatings in residential school.
  • Captain Felipe de Neve employs Paco as an Indian scout in the army. 
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    PRE-SANTA BARBARA

  • Spanish soldiers, including the one who killed Paco’s mother, enter the mission complex with Neve. 
  • Paco protects neophyte (baptized) females from Spanish soldiers.
  • Paco witnesses Neve and Father Junipero Serra repeated arguments about the padre’s misuse of Spanish funding and Serra’s arrogant disregard of safety.
  • Neve trusts Paco’s kinship with the indigenous, whether or not baptized.
  • On a visit to the Headman (Chief) of the local tribe, Paco is warned of a spiritual “death” that comes to those who cannot find their true home in life. 
  • He suggests that maybe in Santa Barbara, home of the hostile Chumash, Paco may find his true place in this changing world.
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    SANTA BARBARA

  • Paco, when scouting, is captured by the Chumash.
  • His attachment to his mother’s clamshell necklace endears him to the Chumash.
  • Paco is invited to return for the “Big Time Gathering” next full moon.
  • Back at camp, Serra is outraged that Paco, “a savage,” not he, “God’s minister on Earth,” should return to the Chumash. 
  • A young Chumash woman, Ifapi, greets Paco upon his return.  She prepares him for an upcoming ceremony into the darkened Big House. 
  • It is in that Big House that Paco communicates with the ghost of his dead mother, signifying the beginning of Paco’s return to his people.
  • Chumash Chief informs Paco he still has work to do for his people among the Spanish.
  • POST SANTA BARBARA.

  • Spanish soldiers and padres prepare to leave Alta California.  Concern: what will happen to the neophytes who live in the missions.
  • Serra and Neve disagree on plans for the neophytes’ future. 
  • Paco carries King Carlos and Neve’s orders to mission.  The neophytes are to vote from among themselves for a headman to return them to their tribal lands and ways.
  • Paco shocked when he meets Balthazar, a drunken letch, the “chosen” headman of one of the missions. He forces Balthazar to return with him to Santa Barbara.
  • Standing before Serra and Neve, Paco reveals Serra’s underhand machinations.  The “chosen” headman, Balthazar, is unable to read or write.  It was a padre, not the neophytes, who chose Balthazar.
  • Serra’s plan, the neophytes remain in their missions, “protected” by God, wins. 
  • Neve joins Paco in voicing the ominous implication of Serra’s plan for the neophytes.  But both are too late.
  • Serra dies and is made a saint.  Neve becomes California’s forgotten man.  And the neophytes are overrun by the crush of white man from the east.
  • Paco returns to Ifapi.  He has found his home and his people.
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    ALTA CALIFORNIA is a multi-national and international award winner.  Top 4% on Coverfly Red List.   WINNINGS: Los Angeles Film and Script, Richmond International, Lonely Seal, WeScreenplay Diverse Voices, Accolade Global (Native American/Aboriginal Peoples), Berlin Indie, etc.  HONORABLE NOMINEE AND FINALIST: Filmhaus, Berlin, Wiki Screenplay, Hollywood Gold, Beverley Hills Film Festival, etc.  Currently QUARTER-FINALIST in San Francisco International Screenwriting Competition.

    Critics compare ALTA CALIFORNIA to Aguirre, the Wrath of God; Squanto: A Warrior’s Tale; Empire of the Summer Moon; and The Revenant.

     

    Comment
    “One of the script's most attractive qualities is the fact that the writer addresses the displacement and dislocation that many mixed race people have historically felt within the world of the Spanish and their occupation of the "New World". This helps develop thematic threads surrounding identity, home, and family that are still relevant to many people today “ (NYC Screenwriting Festival, 2021)

  • His attachment to his mother’s clamshell necklace endears him to the Chumash.
  • Paco is invited to return for the “Big Time Gathering” next full moon.
  • Back at camp, Serra is outraged that Paco, “a savage,” not he, “God’s minister on Earth,” should return to the Chumash. 
  • A young Chumash woman, Ifapi, greets Paco upon his return.  She prepares him for an upcoming ceremony into the darkened Big House. 
  • It is in that Big House that Paco communicates with the ghost of his dead mother, signifying the beginning of Paco’s return to his people.
  • Chumash Chief informs Paco he still has work to do for his people among the Spanish.