PAFF Can You Dig This Review
09 Feb 2016
“I Live in South Central Los Angeles. Home of the drive thru and the drive-by,” says Ron Finley in his Ted Talk. This statement defines the conditions which propelled Finley, the Guerilla Gardener, and center of the film Can You Dig This, directed by Delilah Vallot and executive produced by John Legend.
Can You Dig This is a solution driven documentary which focuses on the progressive changes made in the lives of the five residents in South Central Los Angeles in a year.
Spicey, a former gang member and ex felon admits that it was actually growing marijuana that got him into gardening. Though at first Spicey was reluctant to divulge this information on camera, Spicey’s story may be the motivation that weed lovers around the country can use to expand their love for homegrown weed into a larger variety of edibles.
Kenya is also a member of the Compton Community Garden, which is where Spicey also participates in growing food for his community. Working in the garden for Kenya is a therapeutic endeavor which gives her pride and dignity that life in the gang did not afford her. We can see Kenya’s progression over the life of the project and experience her pitfalls as well.
Quimonie, an 8-year-old who admits to being the “Garden Police” while watching over her garden in her housing projects. Quimonie is more than just a gardener. She is also an entrepreneur who brings in additional income by setting up her very own farmers market in front of her residence, the dietician who instructs her father on how to eat better to prevent another heart attack and the teacher for her 4 younger sisters who she fully believes ought to learn the art of gardening. If there is one single thing that embodies the power of something beautiful growing in a food desert, it is undoubtedly Quimonie who is also the least camera shy 8-year-old anyone has ever encountered.
Hosea, a 70-year-old ex felon in a halfway house in South Central who did 30 years for killing a man in self-defense brings incredible charm. Hosea explains his first experience with using a smart phone and hearing Google Maps speak to him as well as seeing a computer for the first time. Hosea reminisces as he explains the feeling and value of freedom and how it meant the world to him to have a living plant in his cell while incarcerated.
Finley is the scholar and leader of the film. His one liners throughout the film are tweet-worthy and he makes arguments that are impossible to debate with.
“The garden teaches a system. Patience, persistence, care. Everything is a process.”
After a neighbor reports him to the city for planting food on the strip of soil on the sidewalk in front of his house, the city instructed him that it was against the law to plant food on the parkway and that he had to destroy the plants immediately. In regard to the city’s demand, Finley states, “We don’t live in a food desert. You can grow food in a desert. We live in a food prison. In a prison you need permission for everything.”
Finley refused to follow the city’s ordinance and challenged the city. He states in the film that it is ridiculous to criminalize growing carrots when people can grow food with half the resources it takes to grow grass. Finley also points out that the rate of obesity in his community is 5X higher than the rate of obesity in Beverly Hills. With the help of Steve Lopez of the L.A. Times, Finley’s struggle against the city’s ordinance is publicized and now public support was on his side.
In Can You Dig This, Finley speaks about the night he encountered a mother and her daughter taking food from his garden. When they realized that Finley saw them taking food, the mother and daughter were deeply embarrassed and apologized profusely. He told them there was no reason to be embarrassed and that the food was there for them to take freely. This solidified to Finley that this work in his community was important and absolutely necessary. Finley is working to change the perception of what is gangster is community. He wants the kids to compete over who grows the best tomatoes and who has the best garden in South L.A.
“Growing your own food is gangster. Taking care of people and not robbing them is gangster. You think your tomato is so good? Your tomato and shit! Watch mine next year!”
This documentary is an intimate conversation with the residence of South Central Los Angeles who are working hard to take back the power from corporations and city ordinances who have decided that the economically disadvantaged should be okay with living in a food desert and to be happy with the scraps they are forced to accept. A must see for people who are interested in gardening, food coops, transformation and people power.
Ron Finley is presently traveling around the world giving lectures on growing your own food in a food desert. Can You Dig This can be viewed on most platforms. Finley has started a movement #plantsomeshittoday.