Cinema Libre // 2011 // 31 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Daryl Loomis // June 25th, 2011
Obviously, we're doing something really terrible here. We're growing food.
So, yeah, I'm going to get on my political high horse here, but jeez, sometimes things just really gall me. After the 1992 riots, the city of Los Angeles purchased fourteen acres of abandoned property at 41st and South Alameda and gave it to the people of South Central L.A., upon which they built the largest urban farm in the United States. Divided amongst 350 families, these plots brought organic produce and medicinal herbs to some very poor citizens, who couldn't come close to affording such things otherwise. I can't imagine that there's anybody who would say that this is a bad thing, but the man who originally sold the property to the city, Ralph Horowitz, decided that poor people eating well cheaply was something he could no longer stomach, so he demanded that Los Angeles sell the land back to him. They did, in a secret deal for essentially the price he sold if for fifteen years earlier, and he promptly evicted the farmers. After three years of injunctions, the farmers finally lost and the land was bulldozed. Save the Farm is the story of the people who tried to save this oasis in the middle of South Central.
Save the Farm isn't a particularly artful documentary, but it tells a story people should hear. Land use is the political issue I'm most sensitive about, which explains my utter hatred of golf, but what happened in this case was an egregious. I understand that the person who holds the deed gets to use the property how he or she deems fit, but when the city holds the land and has granted it to the people as a public works project, it needs to stay that way, at least while it's active and vital. Were nobody working the land, I could understand a sale, but to throw 350 families off of land they'd worked for over a decade is simply disgusting. The people made every effort to organize, garner celebrity help, and sue, but in the end, as it always seems to anymore, avarice wins. Now poor people have to spend more money to buy worse produce from supermarkets, all because a rich guy wanted back something he had already sold, and then didn't even develop the damn land.
Save the Farm makes people aware of the issue, but what's done is done; nothing is bringing that farm back now, so the film's impact can only go so far. It features activist celebrities Alicia Silverstone, Daryl Hannah, Amy Smart, and others. With their words, interviews with the families who worked the land, and archival news footage, we get a good picture of what went down. Seeing cops kicking farmers over a crop of carrots is never fun, but it hammers home how important it is to a large city to keep its poor supplicated and mired in poverty. How else will developers get rich?
Save the Farm is presented by Cinema Libre. In an effort to keep principled, they offer the film online, but not on a physical disc. Somebody with a better video card will probably find a better picture than I did on my cruddy system, but it looked pretty poor on my monitor. The sound is fine, with relatively clear dialog, but nothing particularly special. There's no physical disc so, of course, there are no extras.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cinema Libre
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 31 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site