By Khaled Fawal
Los Angeles has, for quite some time now, been renowned around the continent for its multicultural foundations. After the tragic L.A. riots, the city of Los Angeles advocated the opening of a 14 acre community garden in South Central Los Angeles; a decision that has only brought hope and unity to a neighbourhood ravaged by violence and poverty.
The documentary “The Garden” depicts the inspirational efforts of a Latino-dominant population to preserve what was at the time the largest community garden in the country. A barren, wasted chunk of land in the middle of the city quickly became one of the brightest landmarks in South Central L.A., largely due to the tenacity of the Hispanic community. A little over a decade after its inauguration, a powerful entrepreneur rises out of the shadows and demands that they be evicted. Some shady discussions behind closed doors had controversially brought Horowitz ownership of the land for the same price he had previously sold it.
However, the farmers are not willing to go down without a fight. Several local leaders admirably lead a fight against City Hall, but their efforts bring them little more than sympathy. Fortunately for them, their spirit and unwillingness to leave the garden has made noise around the country, and a fund-raiser is swiftly put in place to raise the money asked by the landowner. Thousands of people around the country, even celebrities such as Willy Nelson and Joan Baez show their support. Against all odds, with the intervention of environmental foundations, the community had finally reached their goal of $16.3 million.
Over the duration of their dispute for the land, however, Horowitz had shown absolutely no compassion for their cause. He quickly becomes a vicious nemesis who lacks both empathy and awareness, an individual whose despicable pursuit of revenge becomes more pressing to him than financial gain. After deliberately demanding a practically unachievable figure for low-income farmers, he turns his back on them at the very end, and the evictions begin.
What happens over the course of the movie is appalling, and the nature of the conflict is extremely aggravating. Serious questions about the justice system in what is supposedly one of the most enlightened countries around the world begin to scratch the surface. The filmmaker profiles a cultural group admirable for their fighting spirit and for their passionate desire to raise food for themselves and their family. “The Garden” is a poignant yet inspiring film that perfectly illustrates the bitterness of defeat and the triumph of a community rising up against all odds to make its voice heard.