Planet In Focus 2017: Our Review of ‘Can You Dig This?’

Planet In Focus 2017: Our Review of ‘Can You Dig This?’

I’ve seen documentaries that tackle urban gardening movement as segments. Gardens are one of the multiple ideas to disrupt the traditional city environment. But this is a full film that dedicates itself to the gardening movement.

Delia Valitot’s film tackles not one but four urban gardens in the more impoverished sections of Los Angeles. These gardeners are of different green thumb levels and have their own reasons for developing this interests.

And of course, there are factors that put these gardens on a balance. Conflict is necessary in all films, but there’s something I’ve noticed in movies about marginalized people.

That one or two events will crush their already precarious dreams. This happens here, in Delila Vallot’s film. She lived parts of her childhood in South Los Angeles. Although there’s something slightly detached tone while she’s documenting some of her subjects.

But when she connects, she connects. The reason she returned to South LA is because she heard of Ron Finley. He’s one of her five subjects and a proponent of urban gardening.

Finley also serves as the film’s producer, and we often hear his voice. He speaks about the assumptions we have about urban areas worldwide. And how he wants to subvert those expectations.

Finley generously shares the screen with people we only know through their first names or pseudonyms. Two of them have their little spaces in the Compton Community Garden – Michael ‘Spicey’ Evans aand Kenya Johnson.

There a resident of a halfway house, Hosea Smith. Lastly, there’s scene stealing eight-year-old Quimonie Lewis, whose assertive business sense makes me wish I was as smart as her.

There’s a rawness to the way Vallot lights her subjects and the places they live. Despite the film’s flaws, the voices of Vallot’s subjects come out with an unmistakable authenticity and passion.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.