Hot Docs 2021: Our Review of ‘Taming the Garden’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Hot Docs 2021, Movies by - May 09, 2021
Hot Docs 2021: Our Review of ‘Taming the Garden’

A barren tree stands in the middle of a beach, slightly higher than it’s supposed to stand. There’s intricate fencing that wraps that tree where its roots would be. From a distance, there’s one of those yellow CAT trucks that craves soil from one part of the earth to another. The short term goal here, from what it looks like, is to keep that tree moving across the sea to God knows where. It’s some project by some megalomaniac rich for whatever reasons he has. It comes from a long line of monumental projects from equally ‘creative’ rich people, needing laborers and, nowadays, machinery to make that happen. Watching this in action will strike awe in some viewers in the visual and aural sense. The director is nice enough to stand back from the work, so that work doesn’t overload the senses. But that doesn’t answer the viewers’ lingering questions.

There’s an attempt here to capture world of this kind of work on a grand scale, but that decision to stand back and have a bigger canvas has some story-wide repercussions. It eventually tries to combat that with the occasional decision to close up on some subjects, but it feels too late. By the way, the story here is that some rich Georgian guy is asking some seaside villagers to take away their trees and transport them across the ocean. Some of the villagers are ok with the idea while most of them aren’t. One villager, for instance, sits by his tree before the workers take it away. Again, standing back from this process means that it doesn’t respect the opinions of the villagers nor the workers. And I understand the reasons for making the rich guy barely appear on screen. I still dislike him and this movie though.

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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.
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