The Garden, Esperanza Friends

Tonight was one of those nights were I didn’t really feel like like going out, it meant ditching the pjs, leaving Brooklyn and facing the snow. Still, I had the feeling that Stranger than Fiction was the right place for me to be, so I bucked up and faced the elements. It turned out to be another beautiful STF night, and I’m so glad that I made it. I was greeted by the wonderful Raphaela Neihausen, Executve Director of STF, then I purchased IFC’s yum organic popcorn, with butter, and found my way to my seat.

The film, The Garden, was about the intense struggle by nearly 400 families to save the huge community garden/farm, located in South Central LA that had been given to them by the city in the wake of the LA riots. In order to quell tensions that flared up after Rodney King’s police assailants were acquitted, the city gave the land to the community for use as a community garden. Ten years later, the city decided to take it back, or rather claim that they did not indeed own it, and that it instead belonged to the previous owner, a greedy developer, that had had his property seized by the city under imminent domain. Back in the early 90’s he was paid 5 million for the land, then for some unexplainable reason, in the early 2000’s the city sold it back to him for the same price. Now you don’t have to be an economics major or even a graduate of the 7th grade for that matter to understand that after ten years of inflation, there is no way that the value of the property had not risen at all in over ten years. Quite to the contrary property in South Central has become increasingly desirable to developers and new residents.

The film tracks the development of the Latino community gardener’s struggle to advocate for themselves and win the right to keep their garden, in fact the largest community garden in the United States. I won’t tell you whether or not they succeeded, you will have to see the film to find out (or google it, but do the former first)!  I highly recommend it as a valuable record of people’s history and as compelling cinema. Interview with the director to come!

But wait, the night gets better. After STF the whole audience was invited to 99 Below on MacDougal street for a free drink with ticket stub and a chance to mingle with the director, Scott Hamilton Kennedy. Scott was very friendly and approachable. He was joined by representatives from Silver Docs, a great documentary film festival, which takes place in DC each year, the  director of Trembling Before G-d, Sandi DuBowski, and unrelatedly, the chocolatiers behind Living Love organic raw chocolate. The chocolate chefs were kind enough to offer me several samples of their awesome chocolates, which perhaps explains why I am still so chipper, typing away at 4am.

I should really sleep, but before I do, I have to conclude that what really put the icing on the cake of this being a great night was that I ran into some really good old friends from my days of garden activism in NYC some 7-8 years ago. Aresh of More Gardens continues his stand-up work, while Ben has extended his commitment to South Bronx gardens, to also include a Victory Gardens style farm upstate, where he grows vegetables and herbs which he can then distribute to communities in poor NYC neighborhoods and also sell at farmers markets to benefit political prisoners. This model has been successful for VG and is showing a lot of promise for Ben’s farm as well.

Yay! and goodnight.

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