Friday, February 3, 2012

30 Days of Oscar Day 10: The Garden

Movie: The Garden
Nominations: Best Documentary Feature

Wins/Snubs: There wasn't anything that could beat Man on Wire in 2008.  Though also nominated Encounters at the End of the World, as much as I disliked Werner Herzog's film, is still better than this one.  

This documentary chronicles the loss of a community garden in South Central Los Angeles.  The landowner wants to sell the land and the city of LA is allowing him to clear the area.  Set up after the 1992 riots, the garden grows food to feed local people, most of whom speak Spanish, though the ethnicity of the people losing the land and the people owning the land isn't discussed as much as you'd expect.  The filmmakers seem to be on the side of the people trying to fight the developers by insisting the local people need the area to provide food and community support.  Ultimately they lose.  

It's kind of hard to understand why this movie was nominated for an Oscar now that I've seen it.  Given the subject material, I was pretty intrigued to watch it, but as a film, it's not particularly well made.  They used quite a few text screens to describe what happened behind the scenes and what legal issues are going on.  Instead of keeping you informed, it takes us away from getting to know the characters among the community or the players in the fight to keep the gardens.  It's not a great film, and that's pretty much death for a documentary.  Unless you have wonderful nature or history, you have to be persuasive and direct to create a good documentary.

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