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The Garden Movie Review

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The Oscar-nominated documentary The Garden explores the sad story of a community garden in the heart of L.A. threatened by bulldozers, politicians and greed. The largest of its kind in the country, the garden arose from the Rodney King riots, providing typically poor immigrants the means to grow their own food. The land, unfortunately, is owned by someone else, and that person wants to bulldoze the property and sell it to developers.

The Garden, directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy, is a blend of legal, political, communal and ethical arguments, primarily told from the side of the farmers. It's a sad tale because it's a movie about people with not very much to begin with being faced with the loss of something crucial to their lives. Kennedy paints the tale as David vs. Goliath, and The Garden is an effective documentary as a result.

As much as I want to side with the farmers, though, the documentary would have been more interesting had it taken a slightly more neutral approach. Sure, the farmers had been cultivating the land for over a decade, but with what formal or legal right? Is the owner not allowed to make money off his land?

The owner does sound like a jackass, and the thesis may ultimately be the same, but taking a more even-handed approach would have made The Garden more interesting and compelling. As is, it comes off a bit fluffier than it should have been. Still, it's a good movie. Just not a great one.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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