MOVIE: *** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
Directed by: Scott Hamilton Kennedy
Studio: Oscilloscope Laboratories
BY KEVIN CARR
Decades ago, the city of Los Angeles allowed working-class families to use a 14-acre plot of land to build their own vegetable gardens. This became a center of the community and offered a chance for families to grow their own crops and build their spirit. However, when a real estate developer who claimed to own the land prepared to start construction there, the neighborhood fought back to keep its community garden.
This documentary was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature this past year, and as far as documentaries go, it was very well made. It was refreshing to see a real documentary that didn’t rely on whimsical narrative (a la Michael Moore and Morgan Suprlock) to tell a real story. I respect the hell out of director Scott Hamilton Kennedy for actually documenting an event and letting it play out as it happened, warts and all.
This is an interesting film simply for the complexity of this issue. You would think that a community garden wouldn’t have such a dark history behind it, but there are many forces in this community pulling in different directions.
Ultimatley, there’s a lot to learn from this film, the biggest thing being some lessons about the legal system and real estate. These families owned nothing, but they felt an entitlement to the garden. The landowner may have had some nefarious dealings, but he understood how to manipulate the system.
On one hand, I felt bad for the people whose garden was under fire. However, these events should serve as a lesson to them to not take things for granted. It’s better to own your own land than to rely on the govenment to give it to them.
However, whether you agree with either side of the argument, it is an interesting film. You can learn a lot from the mistakes these folks made on all sides, and “The Garden” serves as a stark reminder of what happens when you put your own fate in other people’s hands.
The DVD comes with a feature-length commentary with the filmmakers and community members. There’s a slew of extended and deleted scenes as well as an in-depth interview with the director by Movie City News’ David Poland.