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The Marines of Echo Company
The 14 acre community garden in South Central Los Angeles was the largest of it's kind in the United States. It was started as a form of healing after the devastating L.A. riots in 1992. Since that time, the South Central Farmers have created a miracle in one of the country's most blighted neighborhoods. Growing their own food. Feeding their families. Creating a community. But now bulldozers threaten their oasis. The Garden is an unflinching look at the struggle between these urban farmers and the City of Los Angeles and a powerful developer who want to evict them and build warehouses. Written by
This amazing documentary concerns a garden, at the time the largest urban garden in the United States, dug and fertilized and cared for by a Hispanic population on what was, at the beginning, barren, wasted soil in the middle of the city; over a period of years it became not only a magical garden, but a place of community unity and pride. At some point, the folks who have been growing things are suddenly served with
an eviction notice with little time to spare. Over the years, the barren space has grown rich with green, small plants have become trees, there is an oasis in the middle of concrete poverty--and the owner, after what appear to be shifty dealings behind doors, decides some storage bins would be more advantageous, and certainly more profitable.
Fortunately, several local leaders contact some folks at Los Angeles City Hall--mainly without much results, but the attendant brouhaha draws in celebrity support from folks like Willy Nelson and Joan Baez, and fund-raising begins in order to reach the price first named by the landowner--who quickly becomes, for all time, a loathsome nemesis who lacks both foresight and imagination, an individual whose nasty sense of revenge becomes more pressing to him than financial gain. He's a heartless number-cruncher right out of Dickens, a Ralph Nickleby or a Scrooge--but without redemption. One cringes to think such people exist in an enlightened culture. He could consider numerous options--but only wants an eviction--now!
I was appalled at much of what happens, and I suspect you will be as well. The filmmaker does not offer all the answers, nor does he tie up all the strings laid out early in the plot--but he profiles a cultural group admirable for their love of the land and for their tenacious desire to raise food for themselves and family in a once-sterile setting. This documentary is not entirely a downer, but several scenes made me cry out with grief and anger.
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