Home Video Hovel: Save the Farm, by Maria Rhodes
A propaganda film is made for a very simple purpose: to inspire the viewer to action. This can be done through cold hard facts, manipulating emotions, or just beautiful images. What better way would there be to get someone to believe in a cause then to show them what they need to believe in. Whether it be the strength of our army, weakness of our habitat, or the need for more or less guns, the message usually comes across loud and clear. The danger of a propaganda film is that you only see the issue from one point of view. A good documentary would try to at least give you the reason behind the motives of the antagonizers, but propaganda usually does not. “Save the Farm” takes a propaganda approach to telling a very moving story and I believe that approach hurts the message.
“Save the Farm” documents the challenges of a fourteen acre farm in South Central Los Angeles. A veritable Eden’s garden in the middle of industrial waste, this massive garden gives families in need a place to produce organic plants to feed their families. The owner of the garden sold the plot to the Los Angeles government only to have them sale it back to him thirteen years later for the same price. The owner decides to evict the farmers and develop the land into a profit making venture for himself. Fervent protests, celebrity activists and tons of media coverage later and nothing changed. Spoiler: the garden was demolished.
The film accomplishes its goal of wanting the viewer to be angered by the situation, but for me it was only a momentary anger. I did not feel like I got to know any of those people that populated the picture, got a real handle on the need for this garden to live in this particular space. There were a lot of speeches, a lot of celebrities looking concerned, a lot of stock images of protests and police violently taking people away, but it all seemed empty to me. There was no person I was rooting for, no person that I cared about at all. Mr. Horowitz, the land developer, is quite clearly a selfish person looking out for his own gains, but just how much of a bad person is not made as clear as it should have been. And what about the governmental officials that were involved in the situation? That is where the inherent tension is and yet it is left completely unexplored.
As a propaganda piece, “Save the Farm” is effective. As a documentary, I was wanting more. If you are looking for a short piece letting you know the facts (at least seen from the perspective of the underdogs), then this film is worth exploring. If you are looking for an engaging story about the inherent tension of the have and the haves nots, I would suggest looking elsewhere.
Please support and buy from your local CSA or farmer’s market. Using these resources ensures that local, small farmers can continue to produce quality food and sustain a local economy.