Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Seen It (Again): The Garden (2008)

With our seven day Winter Recess taking place this last week of December, and having recently completed an extensive exemplification essay, I invited my AP students to earn some additional credit by taking in one of five prescribed documentary films.

The Task: while viewing one fop the films, students are being asked to track instances in whicc the filmmaker attempted to engage one of the three appeals (ethos, pathos, logos) through the use of music, imagery, and dialogue. After completing a graphic organizer of their observations, students are then being asked to develop three high level questions for use in testing one another regrading the use of the three appeals in documentary film making. Though I had already seen four of the five--with Waiting for Superman (2011) being the lone exception--it was time for me to revisit these films for myself.

I first came across the trailer for The Garden while perusing the online home of Oscilloscope Laboratories, the small film distribution company founded by the Late Adam Yauch (aka MCA) of the music group The Beastie Boys. After seeing the trailer I immediately connected it with the book Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman, a book I had previously taught in eighth grade. Both the film and the book deal with a community garden. Unlike Fleischman's book, however, The Garden is a true story, and as Ernest Hemingway famously said, "All  true stories end in death." This film is not about the death of any one individual, but the passing of an ideal.

In the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, hundreds of mostly Mexican-American families came together and turned a blighted corner of South Central Los Angeles into a 14 acre urban oasis—complete with guavas, papayas and enough fruit and vegetables to feed hundreds of families.

Directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy, The Garden (2008) is the unflinching look at the struggle between urban farmers and the City of Los Angeles and a powerful developer who wants to evict them and build warehouses. The urban farmers consist primarily of immigrants from Latin American countries where they feared for their lives if they were to speak out. The film follows them as they organize, fight back, and demand a response to the question of, "Where is our 'Justice for all'?"

As aptly summarized on to the film's Facebook page, "The Garden explores the fault lines in American Society. It is the story of the country’s largest urban farm, backroom politics, land developers, money, poverty and power. If everyone told you nothing more could be done, would you give up?"

The Garden is currently available for instant viewing and rental via Netflix, or to be purchased on DVD.

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