The garden Essay

The garden“The Garden” is a classic documentary film about the captivating encounter that took place in Los Angeles. It won the jury prize in June 2008 at the Silverdocs documentary festival in Washington, D.C.”.  It was short listed for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature and was nominated for the Pare Lorentz prize at the IDA Awards in December, 2008.

The documentary was produced and directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy, who burst into limelight as a result of his previous documentary “Our Town” (Compton Students). Characters in “The Garden,” include Farm Coordinators Rufina Juarez and Tezozomoc as well as those who cultivated its soil such as Josefina Medina and Eddie Luvianos Rumbos (South Central Farmers).Kennedy was also involved in the sound, editing and cinematography of the documentary.It is based on the ferocious conflict over a fourteen-acre community garden at 41st and Alameda streets also known as the “South Central Farm”.

The Oscar nominated documentary lets us into the events that took place in South Central Farm, the largest community garden in the U.S., which had been in existence since 1992. Various crops, such as bananas, beans, fresh lettuce, sweet papayas, and tomatoes were grown on the farmland, which was once a site for refuse dump.  The 372 Latino families that worked on the land lived in a serene environment, till they were ordered to evacuate the place in December 2003(South Central Farmers).

What led to this scenario was that the city of Los Angeles had paid developer Ralph Horowitz five million dollars ($5 million) in 1986, in order to build an incinerator on the land. But this project was stopped by an activist named Juanita Tate, who led the community to put an end to the proposed project. Later, in 2003, the land was sold back to Horowitz, who had the plans of developing the place. This move was firmly supported by Tate and one of the Councilwomen “Jan Perry”. This action triggered wrangling in the city and the South Central Farmers were quick to fight for their rights as they felt cheated by this action. Activists such as Deacon Alexander and Dan Stormer assisted them (the South Central Farmers) in their struggle for justice, some celebrities also helped in the struggle. It is the plain story of the life cycle of a garden. “The Garden” exposes us to the true side of power play and how it is very difficult for an individual or group of individuals to win a struggle against the government.

The environment was transformed positively for the betterment of the community around it, the environment that was once a refuse site, developed into a beautiful garden and was in danger of been razed to the ground by bulldozers.  Series of battles broke out, and there were also squabbles between factions of farmers.The documentary teaches us on the balance between politics and power as Kennedy documents the two and half year legal tussle to save the evacuation of farmers from the South Central Farm.Amazingly, the land was initially sold for the same amount it was bought about twenty years later.

What interested me was the manner at which reality was combined with a narrative pull of fiction in the documentary and also the fact that a disgustful site could also be turned into a beautiful garden was also a subject of interest. I liked the fact that the farmers stood their ground in fighting for what they thought was rightfully theirs, not minding that they had to contend with the government.The artistic nature of the documentary makes it a must watch for everyone.

Works CitedOur Town. Dir. Scott K Hamilton. Perf. Compton Students.

2003.The Garden. Dir. Scott K Hamilton. Perf.

South Central Farmers and Tom Morello. 2008.