Sunday, June 21, 2009

Gardening in Movies

So aside from my gardening obsession, I also squeeze in going to the movies about 2-3 times a week (then there are all the flicks I watch on TV/cable/DVD). I'm a member of the DC Film Society, which gets me into advance screenings of some films pre-release and living down the street from the AFI Silver doesn't hurt either. With all that film viewing and gardening be the #1 hobby in this country, you'd think the two would converge more often. You'd also think that when they do shoe gardens or gardening, that filmmakers would be more accurate. Often though, I'm disappointed in fake, out-of-season, or just plain wrong climate greenery shown in most fictional films. It just kills to "Africa" scenes shot in obvious Mexican jungles.

So I turn to the truth-telling documentarians to satisfy my garden movie fixes. This week at the AFI Silver is the annual SilverDocs documentary film festival. That means for the past week 25,000 documentary makers from around the world meet and show their best works. Last year, we had The Garden. This year, I had to dig a bit to find any garden-related films on the Silverdocs listings. After scanning the program for hours, I selected No Impact Man and a short called Nutkin's Last Stand.

I have to say that No Impact Man was about 5% gardening, but what there was of it, I revelled in. The subject family of NIM tried to have completely no carbon foot-print while raising a 3-year-old and living in a downtown Manhattan high-rise. Along their journey, they shop completely locally and mainly from the farmer's market. It occurs to then in spring to grow their own and he tries for a community garden plot. No shocker, they are full-up with a years' long wait list. They are mercifully apprenticed by a garden mentor, Mayer, who grows veggies at his plot, but, moreover, does not disguise his suspicion of their motivation or commitment. I want a new docu next year all about Mayer, it should be called "No Bullshit Man." Mayer instructs them on harvesting garlic scapes while asking hard questions like, how can your wife work for a big corporate shill like Business Week and still claim to be green. Okay, I'm paraphrasing, but Mayer hits it on the head and is not shy about it. If NIM comes to a screen near you, run, don't walk, to see it.

Nutkin's Last Stand was equally excellent. It was part of the Shorts program of outsiders/immigrant subject matter called "Crossing Borders" NLS is about the big, bad American grey squirrel who is out-competing the native British red squirrel. The docu follows these British activists in their quest to irradiate the grey squirrel threat. (Warning: graphic scenes of squirrel killing and consumption in the form of "Squirrel Pancakes.") This film was fascinating in that in never takes sides, but shows it all. Their battle is identical to the battle in my 'hood against exotic, invasive plants. In a bigger contest, it also touches on similarities to anti-immigration groups, Zionists, the Aryan nation, etc. The fervor and delight these folks take in getting rid of the foreign invaders is militaristic. The question of "why" red squirrels are so much better then grays is never addressed. My own take: they are cuter and they were there first.

A few weeks ago I was also invited to see Food Inc. screening with a post-talk panel including Michael Pollan. This is not bad, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it outside of high school or college classes. It covers much of the same ground we saw in Fast Food Nation, Supersize Me, etc. and if you read "Omnivore's Dilemma," I don't think you'll find anything new in this film for you. What you might get out of it is some good old-fashioned riling up. If you are feeling burnt out and need renewed motivation to hate Monsanto or reminder to contact your local lawmakers for basic food safety laws, it does that.

On a side note, a critic quote being used in the movie's ads urges people to bring their kids. DON'T! I spent the screening with a very upset child next to me. Many of the terms were over her head and she had to keep asking her mom to explain complex topics like trademarks and hormone-free milk. (Sample chatter: Kid, "What is a hormone?" Mom, "a growth regulating chemical in your body." Kid, "why is milk with hormones so bad?" and so on.) Further, the movie is far too graphic for anyone underage to take. I had to look away myself for many sequences esp. the open cow stomach digestion demo scene.

3 comments:

FirePhrase said...

On the subject of native/immigrant, did you see this review in the WaPo last week of Waking Up in Eden (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/18/AR2009061803857.html). Sounds like a botanical potboiler. I've got it on my book shopping list. I might even pay full price!

WashingtonGardener said...

Oooh first dibs on borrowing it - also forgot to add that my FAVE parts of Food Inc are Michael Pollan interviews at his kitchen table sprinkled throughout the film. Not just for what he says, but more for the fact that over his window you see his garden and I was very distracted by a rose in bloom in some scenes and other plants popping up in the background. MP is definitely not a food-only or natives-only gardener as some might expect.

jessica said...

Wow.. i like gardening..nice blog
Thanks for sharing..@@

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Jessica
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