The Garden: 3 of 5 stars

Sentinel Staff Writer

Scott Hamilton Kennedy's Oscar-nominated documentary, The Garden, is about the "largest urban garden in the United States" and efforts to save it.

It's a tale of lawyered rich vs. organized poor, of property rights vs. squatter's rights and of brown vs. black.

That's a lot of conflict to squeeze into one film, and Kennedy can't help but give short shrift to each. But spend years shooting a pretty good documentary about a piece of recent Los Angeles history, and "pretty good" is good enough for an Oscar nomination.

The empty land was purchased by the city as a form of urban healing after the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Latinos, in particular, embraced it, and the lush acreage turned out fruits and vegetables by the truckload.

But the developer who sold that land made a backroom deal with an underhanded politician to buy it back, at 1992 prices, and announced he was closing up the garden.

The Garden doesn't sit on the fence in this fight. The "farmers" may not all be legal U.S. citizens, some might have grandfathered control of their plots to others and some might be too quick to turn on the people trying to help them. They're still better than the developer and the back-stabbing "poverty pimp" councilwoman who found her way into his pocket.

Still, it's hard for a non-Angelino to have a dog in this fight, and the film doesn't really give us one.

Screening at: 9 p.m. Sunday, March 29, Regal; 1:30 p.m. Thursday, April 2, Enzian.

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