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The Garden


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Product Details

  • Actors: Danny Glover, Daryl Hannah, Antonio Villaraigosa
  • Directors: Scott Hamilton Kennedy
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Oscilloscope Laboratories
  • DVD Release Date: August 18, 2009
  • Run Time: 80 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B002ASVYO6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #167,130 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Garden" on IMDb

Special Features

Feature-length commentary track with filmmaker Scott Hamilton Kennedy, farmer and activist Tezozomoc, and producers Vivianne Nacif and Dominique Derrenger
Back to the Garden: Extended scenes, protests, and historical perspective
Director interview with film critic David Poland (Movie City News)
Optional English and Spanish subtitles

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Oscar-nominated for Best Documentary in 2008 The Garden has been hailed by critics as the most astute and powerful political film of the year. Filmmaker Scott Hamilton Kennedy's (award-winning director of OT: Our Town) brilliantly captures, in a series of explosive and wrenching turn of events, the ways greedy developers, inept politicians and self-serving community leaders can run rough shod over the lives of working class families fighting to save the 14-acre urban farm that has become the very source of survival. Equal parts The Wire & Harlan County, USA , The Garden, exposes the fault lines in American society and raises crucial and challenging questions about liberty, equality, and justice for the poorest and most vulnerable among us. As the battle lines are drawn between this group of low-income families struggling to protect a 14-acre urban farm against a backdrop of grey and hardened skyscrapers, their cause became an international sensation that drew the attention of numerous notable activists and politicians, including Dennis Kucinich, Joan Baez, Danny Glover, and Willie Nelson.

Amazon.com

This 2009 Oscar-nominated documentary may have been made on the fly and a shoestring, but the impact of the issues it addresses about race, politics, class, wealth, corruption, and the heat of human emotion more than make up for the patchwork of video interviews and jerky vérité action. The subject is the South Central Farm, a 14-acre patch of blighted city blocks located in the area of Los Angeles that was terrorized by the Rodney King riots in 1992. After acquiring the land from a notorious developer to aid in the healing, the city entrusted it to a group that grew in number at the same time it grew bounteous plots of fruits and vegetables, making the project the largest community garden in the United States by its heyday in 2004. But when backroom and decidedly un-public dealings returned the property to its original owner, the gardeners were faced with imminent eviction and evisceration of a huge patch of green that had become such a powerful symbol in the lives of the mostly Latino and African-American residents who cared for it. The Garden chronicles with sometimes gut-wrenching clarity the ensuing internecine wars that erupted between all the parties involved. The gardeners are the focal point, and director Scott Hamilton Kennedy clearly throws down on the side he has established as right (which is hard to dispute). They get mad, and they do their damnedest to get even through every legal means at their disposal to prevent the destruction of this incredible urban oasis. Opposing forces and characters include a city council member who clearly shows conflicts of interest in her on-camera remarks, in unearthed documents, and through the comments of others whose interviews allude to the frightening political danger of going against her wishes. There's a well-known black community organizer whose history of fiery activism gained her a valued reputation that gets dragged through the dirt when the Garden issue becomes her personal Waterloo. There's the shadowy developer, who is seen only in deposition footage and heard reading a statement, but who represents vindictive greed, avarice, and the political force of money. Famous faces walk through to lend support, including Daryl Hannah, Danny Glover, Joan Baez, and Willie Nelson, and politicians waltz around to capitalize on the controversy or to offer words of encouragement that only fade into disinterest (Dennis Kucinich makes a tepid campaign stop that helps no one). The multiple appearances of LA city council member and later mayor Antonio Villaraigosa present a fascinating symbol of how political winds can shift passions and priorities when bigger deals are happening behind the scenes.

DVD special features include a lot of additional background material, including extended interview segments and more history of the project's origins and escalation of tensions. There's also an interesting conversation between Kennedy and Movie City News film critic David Poland that lends more depth to the subtext of what was happening between the parties in the midst of all the tension. And the tension is palpable throughout The Garden. As an environmental documentary and as a political thriller, the story is not only moving, it's stirring and suspenseful, with an ending that's about as bad as you could imagine. There is victory in the fight itself, but if it all makes you angry, good; if it makes you motivated to rise to your own battles about fighting over the difference between right and wrong, all the better. --Ted Fry

Customer Reviews

It made me cry.
Joyce Taylor
Extremely well made, relevant doc that address class, race, politics and the environment.
Cheryl R. Revkin
You could feel the gardeners' pain as they slowly lost out to real estate interests.
Dan Udell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Balaji Rajam on February 21, 2010
Format: DVD
It was George Orwell who once said "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.". For the most part, I believe, The Garden does that. A heartbreaking true story of how the largest urban form in America was razed to the ground by corrupt politicians and an over zealous land owner.

More than the story of a farm, it is a commentary on the human condition and the desire to live one's life with dignity. These immigrant workers poured their blood and sweat and turned a 16 acre wasteland into a lush farm land. By stripping them of their land and livelihood through backroom deals, the politicians are destroying the America where it was once possible for the little guy to succeed
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Louie's Mom on February 14, 2010
Format: DVD
This movie covers the fight by a group of south central families to avoid having a 13 acre garden in South Central Los Angeles destroyed. There is a lot of detailed history of this battle, but the producers skillfully focused on presenting the major events and players in order to give the viewer an understanding of the conflict, rather than presenting the details of the litigation surrounding the 13 acres.

The summary is this: after LA police officers were acquitted of charges of beating Rodney King, one of the things L.A. did to try to improve community relations was to help start a community garden on 13 acres. The film gives ground level and aerial views of the lush garden that resulted with plots tended by local families, mostly spanish speaking immigrants. There were banana, walnut and papaya trees, corn, lettuces, squash, etc. It was open from dawn to dusk. Families, senior citizens and children all worked together and they eventually developed a democratically based group that set rules and alloted land, and represented them in their fight to keep it when the garden was slated for destruction by a developer purchasing it from the city.

This film covers many issues of American society that we have struggled with for over 100 years - poor nutrition in low income neighborhoods, community building, minority rights and representation, land development and political dealmaking, the conflicts between different ethnic low income groups, community activism, etc.

After watching the film I was saddened and angered at what in the end really killed the garden - the anger of the developer who said he wouldn't sell the land at ANY price. Despite national attention, celebrity involvement, funding from the Annenburg foundation to buy the land at a fair price, etc. etc.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer on August 19, 2009
Format: DVD
wow wow wow. i'm an LA resident and was horrified by the injustice i saw between councilwoman jan perry and scumbag land owner ralph horwitz. jan has her hands so deep in the money bag, obliviously on the take, while horwitz is too busy being racist. amazing and so glad this was documented on film. i'm sorry i was not more involved with this movement. rent/buy this film to see what i'm talking about. worth it on all levels. at least it will get you thinking one way or another.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nick on July 9, 2009
Format: DVD
I saw this movie at Cinema Village in NY and was so impressed by its raw, fly-on-the-wall approach. Being a New Yorker I knew nothing of the plight of these farmers in South Central LA and their attempts to take on greedy developers and city hall to save their community garden, but this story has universal appeal. An enthralling and necessary doc.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By D. E. fenkel on June 12, 2009
Format: DVD
this doc shows the full spectrum of a nasty fight between crooked city council members, unprincipled community leaders, and hard working immigrant workers making great use of public land.

so damn deserving the academy award nomination it received.

i can't recommend it enough. it's the real life The Wire.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mike In NYC on August 17, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I saw this film at an IFC screening in NYC that included a Q&A with the director afterward. People who advocate of the rights of the poor to use under-used urban land almost universally love this film. I suspect the director shares their sympathies. What usually goes unnoticed as far as the story is concerned is that the city took private land through eminent domain and then failed to use the land for any of the public purposes for which land seizures are normally reserved. After the passage of several years, the city then sold the land back to the original owner at the price they'd originally paid him. On the surface, this does not seem 'unfair'. However, in the interim poor immigrants, many of whom were presumably undocumented, began to farm the land. That Hamilton failed to document whether or not these people were undocumented, whether any particular viewer feels this is germane or not, is a minor flaw in the film. Of course, their immigration status would have been a difficult topic to broach with the immigrants themselves and might have changed the filmmaker's access to the immigrant community, but it might also have served to highlight the differences between the immigrant community and the allegedly corrupt city counselors who were elected by the poor Black residents of the area. Be that as it may, Hamilton does a good job with the documents available to present the complexity of the situation, if only in passing. I spoke to Hamilton after the screening. He'd already sold the few DVDs he had with him for $20 and urged me to call or email him for a copy. I've done both, but only get an answering machine or a form email telling me the DVD is available, because of my university affiliation, for $310, even though I have no plans to use the DVD in an educational setting.
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