Daily News header

The Garden Film Review

By     get stories by email

It's Latinos vs. Landlord in Academy Award-Nominated Documentary


In 1986, Ralph Horowitz sold a vacant, 14-acre lot of land he owned to the City of Los Angeles for $5 million. The property was located in an abandoned industrial area at the corner of 41st and Alameda which most people considered an ugly example of urban blight.

Since the empty plot bordered the barrio in South Central, in 1992, Latinos living there started toying with the idea of turning it into productive farmland. So, they created a collaborative which carted in tons of topsoil to cover up the barren blacktop. Next, they divvied it up with the understanding that each of the 372 families participating could cultivate crops for their own consumption, but not for profit.

Lo and behold, the former dumping ground soon blossomed into an abundant oasis that not only the locals, but even politicians like City Councilman (soon to be Mayor) Antonio Villaraigosa proudly pointed to as a novel form of urban renewal. But this modest Latino version of the American Dream morphed into a horrible nightmare when Mr. Horowitz resurfaced, ordering all the squatters to vacate.

garden12
Kati Lopez with armload of fresh corn leaves.

It seems that Horowitz had somehow finagled a sweetheart deal and bought his own real estate back from the city at the same price he had sold it for, even thought its value had appreciated by $10 to $15 million in the interim. Why had L.A. handed the property over to the landlord at a bargain basement price, especially when he just wanted to bulldoze the verdant grove growing everything from corn stalks to bananas to guava and apple trees.

The ensuing legal battle is the subject of The Garden, a heartbreaking documentary directed by Scott Hamilton Kennedy. The movie landed a well-deserved Oscar-nomination earlier this year for its touching portrayal of Spanish-speaking salt-of-the-earth who find it hard to fathom that the legal system could possibly side with a crook out to flatten the fruit of their blood, sweat and tears.

There's a helpless feeling watching these undereducated, unconnected immigrants pool their money and stage fundraisers to be able to offer Mr. Horowitz triple the amount he paid for the land if he'd sell it to their block association. But no, he simply waits for the judge's jaw-dropping decision, and in 2004 he wins the eviction case before gleefully flattening the entire farm out of spite. To this day, he still hasn't developed the real estate, since he ostensibly would rather leave it as is and rub the empty eyesore in the eyes of the Latino community.

I only pray there's a special room in Hell waiting for a heartless creep like Horowitz.

Excellent (4 stars)
Unrated
Running time: 80 minutes
Studio: Oscilloscope Pictures

To see a trailer for The Garden,

Kam Williams is a syndicated film and book critic who writes for 100+ publications. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Online, the African-American Film Critics Association, and the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee. Contact him through NewsBlaze.

  Please click this get stories by email button to be notified about future stories, and please leave a comment below.

  Please leave a comment here     If it does not display within 10 seconds, please refresh the page

Related Movie Reviews News

There were no upsets in terms of the major categories, with Julianne Moore (Still Alice) and Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) prevailing in the lead acting categories, as expected
Kung Fu Elliot is a kickboxer on a desperate quest to be star. He ropes his girlfriend in to his delusional scheme and the question is, can the relationship last longer than the dream.
We see a procession of movies about artists throughout history suffering for their art, rarely are there sightings of the women in their lives made to suffer too.
Here are the top DVD releases for this week, starting with Whiplash, and just the right time for a fond farewell to the love month of February 2015!
Chris Elliott talks to Prairie Miller about The Rewrite, nutty jobs he's had just to get by, other fellow funny guys who've inspired him, and getting stoned on Groundhog Day.
Will was as eager to share enlightening information, as much about getting into the trickster head of his artful dodger character Nicky, as what he learned about himself.

 

NewsBlaze Writers Of The Month


Popular Stories This Month

newsletter logo

landing page ad

NewsBlaze
Copyright © 2004-2014 NewsBlaze Pty. Ltd.
Use of this website is subject to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy  | DMCA Notice               Press Room   |    Visit NewsBlaze Mobile Site