In August 2005, I finally had the pleasure of seeing Trina Lopez’s documentary A Second Final Rest: The History of San Francisco’s Lost Cemeteries. It was worth the wait.
I heard Lopez speak on Halloween (2002?) at the California Historical Society. She showed the most amazing slides of the historical cemeteries of San Francisco, all of which were demolished and thrown into the sea in the 1940s. I’ve known about the travesty since we moved to San Francisco and discovered that the rain gutters in Buena Vista Park were lined with broken headstones — some still legible — but I’d never seen the photo record of the extensive beauty that was lost. Lopez’s research was impeccable. Her passion for the topic burned.
While those elements carried over into the film, it included less of the historic documentation that I would have liked. The focus of the film is interviews Lopez did with seniors who remember playing amidst the crumbling monuments or walking past the tattered clothing unearthed in the excavations. Unfortunately, while those interviews played in voice-overs, we watched the seniors puttering around in the gardens or riding the Muni. I’m sure that was more cost-effective for the filmmaker, but I was disappointed by what might have been.
My favorite part of the film was the interview with Richard Barnes, the photographer who documented the exhumations of the bodies under the Palace of the Legion of Honor’s new gallery space. His comparison of the care taken with the artwork in storage vs. the callous way that the pioneers’ bones were treated served as the heart of the movie.
A Second Final Rest will break your heart. Check it out if you love cemeteries, San Francisco, or history.
The filmmaker’s website has links of historical interest.
At the moment, there aren’t any upcoming showings scheduled, but you can order a copy of the movie on DVD or buy a download from Filmbaby.com.