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Sascha Rice on the making of Mango Kiss.

Born into one of California's best-known political families, Sascha Rice had a lot of expectations heaped on her from a young age. Her famous grandfather, former Governor of California Edmund "Pat" Brown, thought she would follow in the public service footsteps of his and Rice's uncle, Jerry Brown, also former governor of California and current mayor of Oakland. In addition to the male public servants. Rice's mother, Kathleen Brown, served as Treasurer of California in the early 1990's and was the Democratic candidate for governor in 1994. Following some extensive travel and various educational stints across the country. Rice decided to forego political service in favor of a career in theater and film.

However, after working on various projects run by other people. Rice decided to do a film version of a play, Bermuda Triangles: the Non-Monogamy Experiment, by Sarah Brown (no relation to Rice's Browns). Based on the experiences of the two women in the San Francisco gay community, Rice and Brown co-wrote the screenplay for the movie, re-titled as Mango Kiss. The film explores what happens when two best friends, Lou (played by Michelle Wolff) and Sassafras (Daniele Ferraro), become lovers, then nonmonogamous lovers (with restrictions). Rice co-produced the film with her husband Joe Mellis and Eric O'Malley, and directed it while in her second trimester of pregnancy with their son Chazen, who is now three.

The G & LR recently sat down with Rice in her native home town of Los Angeles to discuss the trials and tribulations of a married mom making a lesbian-themed film for her debut feature.

Gay & Lesbian Review: Did you have any reservations about making your debut feature film about lesbians?

Sascha Rice: I probably should have, but I did not. I had a big era in my life when I was just with women and I didn't have any male friends except super drag queens. I was never imagining I would end up marrying a man and moving back into this straight culture. For me, this story was a natural pick. It was a story I loved and characters I loved. I understood their struggles and their passions. So I didn't have any reservations, and now that I'm on the film festival circuit. I'll be invited to speak on a panel on queer youth and I'll say, "I just think it's important for you to know that I'm bisexual, I'm married to a man," and they'll say, "Oh you're a lesbian mom," and I'll say, "I am a mom and I'm not a lesbian." So it becomes this tricky thing, and there's a lot of prejudice against bisexuals and I understand it. There's so much oppression to gay culture still happening.

G & LR: During the research for the interview, I ran across numerous comments about the "lesbian subculture" in the film. Is it really a "subculture"?

SR: I think so. There's a general gay and lesbian culture and then there's this lesbian subculture in San Francisco and other parts of the country. I was trying to capture this subculture in Mango Kiss. I was trying to get this authentic feel, but the film is more bubble gum than real world. That subculture is much darker, edgier, angrier, more rebellious than the movie.

G & LR: Do you see any universal elements among the relationships?

SR: I hope so. That's why I made it a lighter, more easily digestible version [than the play]. I wanted people to cross over and say, "Wow, there are these people and they're doing S & M and other things, but they have feelings of love and the same struggles with relationships and non-monogamy that everybody does." I made it intentionally the way I did to bring in people who weren't from that culture. In San Francisco, the audience got all the jokes I was trying to convey--even ones the producers on the film didn't get. I know the culture and I know this scene.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

G & LR: Have the responses varied according to sexual orientation?

SR: It's funny, straight people love this movie. Maybe this is because it's so "other" that they can see their relationships more clearly. People in metropolitan areas are more open sexually and they're not panicked if they see explicit or alternative things. There's been a strong response from straight women. Some have raised their hands at screenings and said things like, "I'm straight but Lou is really hot." That's why I made the movie. I don't think people need to be so uptight about their sexual orientation.

G & LR: What about gay marriage?

SR: I don't understand how somebody could want to spend their time being against people making a commitment of love to another person. It's just beyond my comprehension. I would love it if we could get to a place where people were so supportive of love in general.

G & LR: How has your family responded to the film?

SR: I couldn't have made it without my family. They're my biggest supporters in financial ways. My dad, in particular, stepped up to the plate when we were out of money.

G & LR: What filmmakers influenced your approach to the material?

SR: There are filmmakers that I admire and that inspire me. I don't know why, but I always panic when I get this question; it's so openended. I mean, making a film is writing, directing, producing, then within those areas there's the style, the story, the meaning, and all the different elements of style: editing, music, cinematography, acting--within each of which are more subsets.

G & LR: I understand you shot most of the film while you were pregnant with your son?

SR: Yeah, I was in my second trimester. Feeling pretty superwomanish. My midwife was not real happy about my making the movie. The first couple of days I was so excited and we had all these exteriors to do to try and beat the rain. I was on my feet running around and my legs were seizing up. I was thinking I was going to go into pre-labor if I keep this up, so I had an assistant and basically her job was to carry this chair around, give me water and food, and take care of me. It worked out fine.

G & LR: Considering your maternal side of the family, was there any pressure or desire on you to go into public service?

SR: There was never any pressure but it's always been a part of my life and I've been the least political in my life over the past five years. When I was younger, whenever it was time to vote we would sit around and talk through every ballot and measure and then we go and vote together.

G & LR: Do you see your filmmaking as a publie service?

SR: Well, I actually gave up film for a while. I thought it was too extravagant and it's polluting the universe with chemicals, and I finally decided, this is what I'm going to do. Whenever I make something. I would like it to affect people's consciousness and bring something good into the world.

John Esther is a Los Angeles-based writer specializing in culture studies.
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Title Annotation:Artist's Profile
Author:Esther, John
Publication:The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide
Article Type:Interview
Date:Jul 1, 2004
Words:1196
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