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D.C. Gardens On The Big Screen?

July 19th, 2009 · 2 Comments · Posted in food news

Filming at the Washington Youth Garden

Filming at the Washington Youth Garden

Cintia Cabib doesn’t really garden herself. But she knows how to capture the spirit of gardening on film. And soon we may all get a chance to see the film she is making about the many dimensions of community gardening–and the communities that gardens create–here in the District of Columbia.

Viewers of Public Television may know Cintia for her portrayal of the carousel at Glen Echo Park, aptly titled Carousel of Memories. Cabib was the training director at Montgomery Community Television for 19 years and indulges her yen for making documentary films on the side from her apartment in Chevy Chase. For years she was collecting articles about community gardens simply because the subject spoke to her.

“There are so many different facets to community gardens,” Cabib said. “It’s not just about fresh vegetables. Why are people there? Gardening is great exercise. It gets people outdoors. Gardens are also a place of healing, a green space that wouldn’t otherwise be there. For kids, it’s an education. I wanted to explore all of those aspects.”

Above all, Cabib said, her interest is in individual people and their stories. You won’t learn much from her about gardening techniques.

Cabib started visiting the city’s gardens and filming two years ago. She quickly discovered there is quite a diversity of gardens in the District of Columbia, and even more reasons why people garden. At the 7th Street Garden (now Common Good City Farm), two young women started with an idea to grow food in the city to address hunger. They turned a small plot of raised beds near 7th and P streets NW into a cause. They have since moved to a much larger space on former school grounds in the Bloomingdale neighborhood.  Cabib said she was amazed to see the number of volunteers who are there to help.

At the Washington Youth Garden, Cabib found families growing vegetables together. At Ft. Stevens Community Garden, an African immigrant was among those tending their greens. Pomegranate Garden was reclaimed from a litter-strewn patch of weeds in the shadow of the Southeast-Southwest Expressway near Capitol Hill. A young woman shows her Albanian parents around her plot. With the aid of subtitles, the father explains that this is exactly how they grow food in their native country. At the C. Melvin Sharpe Health School, severely disabled children find ingenious ways to interact with their sensory garden. The Melvin Hazen Community Garden has roots as a World War II victory garden; now it has a waiting list of hip urbanites itching to get their hands in the soil.

Watching the trailer for Cabib’s film was like a trip through a family album for me. Not only have I visited many of these same gardens, I know many of the gardeners. But there is something inspiring about seeing them all stitched together on film, through the eyes of a caring interpreter. This is a story just waiting for someone like Cabib to tell it. And how refreshing to see people simply enjoying their gardens, without all the political noise and agenda thumping.

‘What I wanted to do was show a diversity of gardens. All of these gardens are producing fresh food. But you can also say that each garden is different. Maybe because it attracts a different section of the population. Or maybe because it has a different mission,” Cabib said. “Even though the film is locally based, it touches on issues pertinent to community gardens throughout the country.”

It’s definitely a labor of love, because Cabib has no buyers for the film (not yet), or even any backers. “I get a lot of pleasure out of doing my own independent work. Except for the money,” meaning she really doesn’t have much. She owns her own camera and editing equipment. But sometimes she must hire a cameraman, and there are post-production expenses–music to be composed, archival footage to purchase. “My purpose is for people to watch it and really be able to use it. If I can get some return back for all the time I put into it, that’s great too. But I really want to see that my programs have an effect on people, that they motivate people to do something.”

Cabib said she expects her film about D.C. gardens to be about 56 minutes long when it’s finished, or what you would normally see in the way of a feature on public television. We”ll have to wait a few months before its ready for a public screening.  It’s still a work in progress. At least one of the subject gardens isn’t even finished yet. Cabib is waiting to film a vacant lot in Southeast Washington–now home to a dumpster–as plans unfold to turn it into a garden. You can help, if you care to donate. Visit Cintia Cabib’s A Community of Gardeners website and pitch in to make her film–our film about our gardens–a reality.

Photo courtesy of Cintia Cabib. And thanks, Pattie, for clueing us into this project.

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  • Sylvie

    The trailer is beautiful. I hope Cintia can make it work, financially.

  • Ed Bruske

    Sylvie, I think Cintia’s doing a great job. I have no doubt she’ll make this film happen. I’m wondering how I just now found out about it. This is the kind of thing that can become a really valuable tool for the city to create more gardens. It’s a great thing.