City Farmers, Survival in the Urban Landscape
Documentary/16mm, © 1996
Re-issued on DVD in 2005
DVD copies are $45 each
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International shipping, $10 US
Producer/Director: Meryl Joseph
Original Score: Jack DeJohnette
Sponsored by The New York Foundation for the Arts with support from private and public funding sources
City Farmers takes a deep and startling look at the community gardening movement in New York where determined inner-city residents overcome the threat of drug wars, murder, and decay to create gardens that are compelling metaphors of survival.
The gardeners themselves narrate vivid and poignant stories of their experiences. They describe personal visions about the struggle for life that exists both in and out of the gardens.
"A horror, a war zone, you couldn't walk on the sidewalk - all the furniture, the refrigerators, stoves, the meat, rotten meat, the vegetables - the stink, the bees, the flies, the worms - it was gross." (Gladys Gonzales, East New York, Brooklyn)
"When they saw us ladies chopping trees and everything, they said, "That lady's crazy, she must be crazy" and I said, "No, I'm gonna clean this lot!" (Antonia Diaz, Bronx)
In this journey of hope through the city's meanest streets, the challenges of city life are represented in dramatic audio and visual counterpoint.
Since 1978, more than 15,000 people in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Harlem and the Lower East side have taken 1,000 abandoned lots and transformed them into garden oases. In the most devastated areas of the boroughs, community groups of mixed ethnic backgrounds have created an inspiring grass-roots campaign that now has global implications. More than one million dollars in produce is grown annually and graciously shared with Senior Citizens, the homeless and needy families.
With the support of GreenThumb helping community groups obtain leases for the land and providing free seeds, garden supplies, lumber, workshops, and advice, a unique alliance has been formed between government and the people.
By looking intensely into the heart of these diverse communities, it is evident that New York's farmers are powerful role models for inner-city residents everywhere. In their quest to find dignified and graceful solutions to revitalize their neighborhoods, these urban crusaders are as triumphant as their seedlings - defying the broken landscape with an unconquerable spirit and an intrepid will to survive.
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