It’s a classic inspirational story about the little people fighting for their rights against The Man, with a little bit of “Grapes of Wrath” thrown in. And as the tale unfolds, it slowly turns from a touching community story into to a whole other animal. Soon the media gets involved, celebrities rally behind them (including Rage Against The Machine’s Zack de la Rocha, Dennis Kucinich, Daryl Hannah, Danny Glover, Martin Sheen and Willie Nelson), and near-riots are had in the farmers' support. By the film’s startling conclusion, you’ll be hard pressed to believe this is a documentary.
The only thing that makes the movie less effective is that while THE GARDEN offers a moving story of humanity and overcoming adversity, legally speaking the owner of the land, as big an asshole as he may be, does have the right to do what he wants with it. There may have been shady government dealings and conspiracies leading up to that point, but fact is the farmers never had any ownership to the amazing garden they used. That was one hurdle I had a hard time getting over when watching the movie, especially when you realize that people are rioting over what they feel they are “owed,” not what’s actually theirs. It’s still an unfortunate and unfair case for the farmers, but one with a couple caveats to it.
Commentary by director Scott Hamilton Kennedy, producers Vivianne Nacifand Dominique Derrenger and farmer Tezozomoc: Given the passion everyone shows for the topics during the film, I was surprised at how dry this commentary was. Perhaps it was an awkward setting for the first timers. Expect lots of pauses and the occasional nugget of info.
Documentaries: A bunch of footage that wasn’t shown in the main narrative, including more celebrities visiting the garden, some more historical background on the neighborhood that should’ve been kept in, more protests and a more detailed look at the allegations of anti-Semitism leveled against the farmers (totally bogus).
Film Festival Q&A: More lively and informative than the commentary.
Interview with director Scott Hamilton: Film critic David Poland discusses THE GARDEN with Hamilton and delves in to some interesting topics.
Extra Tidbit: THE GARDEN comes from Oscilloscope Laboratories, the production company run by the Beastie Boys.