(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: The story of the South Central Farm is brought to the screen in a short documentary by Michael Kuehnert. This fourteen-acre plot of land in dilapidated South Central Los Angeles was given to the community by the city following the Rodney King riots. 350 families, mostly Latino, grew their food in the plot and supported themselves. Then the value of the land grew to outweigh the largess of the city and a struggle for possession began. Kuehnert takes us to see the farm, the people planting it, and the food it produced. And we see the people who used the land for more than 14 years finding they have to fight to hold it and resist armored police. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10

SAVE THE FARM is the story of an American tragedy. Yeah, I will take sides on a political issue from a film and say what happened in South Central Los Angeles reflects very poorly on local government in Los Angeles and the country in general. On the other hand, it reflects well on the predecessors of the current government. In 1986 the City of Los Angeles bought fourteen acres of land for the purpose of building an incinerator. The seller was one Ralph Horowitz who was paid $4.8M for the property, but was given the right to buy it back. When the locals objected to having an incinerator in their neighborhood the city abandoned the plan. The land went to the L.A. Harbor Department in 1994. They had no immediate use and following the Rodney King riots they granted the Food Bank a permit for the land to be used as a community garden. 350 families used the garden to produce food and medicinal plants. With hard work the land became very productive. People could feed their families and sell their surplus at their own farmers' market.

In 2001 Ralph Horowitz decided the land was valuable after all. At first the city resisted selling the land back, but following closed-door negotiations with the city Horowitz was sold the land for $5.1M. As part of the settlement Horowitz agreed to donate 2.6 acres for a public soccer field. But there would be no gardening. The farmers brought a lawsuit to prevent the sale of the land to Horowitz, but they lost. Horowitz offered the land for sale at his current price of $16.3M. The farmers were able to raise a little over $6M, but Horowitz would not sell. The Annenberg Foundation, impressed by the good being done for the farm agreed to donate the funds necessary to buy the land, but Horowitz refused to sell saying that their offer came too late and citing anti-Jewish remarks made against him, though they appear to have come from supporters of the farm and not the farmers themselves.

On June 13, 2006, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department ordered the land to be evacuated and cleared. Forty protesters were arrested and the actions set off protests to that attracted celebrities including Alicia Silverstone, Daryl Hannah, Amy Smart, Joan Baez, Danny Glover, Martin Sheen, Laura Dern, and others. But it was to no avail. On July 5 the land was bulldozed and the crops destroyed. Wikipedia reports that as of June, 2011, the land that had been a the United States's largest urban farm remains a bulldozed vacant lot.

Director Michael Kuehnert shows us the farm that had provided food, a park, money though a farmers' market, and what was really a community center. Now it is a vacant lot. We see the struggle to hold on against the forces of profit-takers. SAVE THE FARM is a tragedy of land that was used for 14 years to feed and help people but now having been returned to being one more eyesore in a dingy part of Los Angeles. I give the film a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. SAVE THE FARM is a succinct 31 minutes currently available as VOD and DVD from Cinema Libre. It is available for streaming from NetFlix.

Wikipedia on the South Central Farm:

Film Credits:

What others are saying:

					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2013 Mark R. Leeper