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With Oscar nomination, 'The Garden's' acclaim grows

2009 Oscar nominations

January 23, 2009|Reed Johnson

Think globally, but film locally.

In a nutshell, that philosophy is part of what makes "The Garden," one of the five Oscar-nominated documentaries, such a compelling cinematic statement. "The Garden" tells a very L.A. story of power politics, culture conflict and grass-roots activism, but its themes have global resonance.

Directed and produced by Scott Hamilton Kennedy, who devoted several years of his life to making the film, "The Garden" records the ferocious dispute over the fate of a 14-acre community garden at 41st and Alameda streets in Los Angeles.

Created in 1992 as a healing response to the riots that followed the verdict in the Rodney King beating trial, the site became known as the South Central Farm. For the hundreds of families, many of them Latino immigrants, who worked the land and harvested its bounty, the farm was a blessing.

But the site became the epicenter of a bitter dispute in 2003 when the city sold the land to a developer in what appeared to be a technically legal, but secretive, deal. Times critic Kenneth Turan called it "a potent human drama."

"I hope in the end that maybe the film will be like a history lesson in politics that we've moved on from," Kennedy said by phone.

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reed.johnson@latimes.com

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