Pick up your shovel and just “plant some shit.”
At least that’s the message the new documentary “Can You Dig This” is trying to get across.
“While set in one of the largest food deserts in the country, this is not a food documentary,” director Delila Vallot, tells IndieWire. “This is the story of the human spirit and what happens when you put your hands in the soil.”
The film takes audiences to one of the most crime-laden neighborhoods in the United States, South Los Angeles, where beauty is sprouting up in areas where there previously was none.
Produced by musician John Legend’s Get Lifted Film Co., “Can You Dig This” follows four “gangster gardeners” who are “planting to transform their neighborhoods and are changing their own lives in the process.
“Calling for people to put down their guns and pick up their shovels, these ‘gangster gardeners’ are creating an oasis in the middle of one of the most notoriously dangerous places in America,” the film’s official site reads.
The gardeners leading the effort are almost as unexpected as the locales where the movement is cropping up (no pun intended): areas like Detroit, Chicago’s South Side and downtown Atlanta.
South LA doesn’t exactly evoke images of community or gardens, and especially not a coming together of the two. The urban gardening movement, a central focus of the film, aims to repair the battered reputations of such neighborhoods by beautifying them and addressing the root causes of their problems: everything from unemployment, underemployment and undernourishment to food insecurity and unhealthy diets.
Urban gardening not only allows people to contribute to their communities something of value, but also helps them make health, productivity and innovation a part of their lifestyles.
The movement sparked Vallot’s interest because she was interested in learning “how people in such environments can use this practice to create positive results for themselves.”
“Gardens do more than just provide food. They have the power to inspire a mental and emotional shift. It’s these small shifts that lead to monumental changes down the line.”
While the film certainly aims to shed light on this movement taking place in America unlikeliest cities, it also has a more symbolic motive, namely to show us that the power to transforms our communities rests in our own hands … literally.
“People are lacking access to what I consider basic, natural rights: healthy food, minimally adequate education and safety,” says Vallot. “The film explores the idea that at least some of these challenges can be eradicated by the simple act of planting a seed.”
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