Community garden plays role in documentary; director to speak in Buffalo, Jamestown

reflection of parade in car window
A parade celebrating the pre-Civil War era is reflected in the car window of a black resident in the film Old South. Image courtesy Danielle Beverly

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Without giving too much away, a community garden plays a central role in Old South, a documentary that takes place on one block in Athens, GA, showing the conflict between a historically black community and a fraternity that holds antebellum parades.

The community garden “emerges as a bit of a surprise,” said Danielle Beverly, director and producer of the documentary, who also did the camera work. “It’s an unexpected place of healing.”

You can see the film and hear from Beverly at two free outdoor screenings this weekend in Western New York. Take chairs or blankets to sit on.

Danielle Beverly
Danielle Beverly, director of the documentary Old South, will speak at local screenings of the film. Photo courtesy Danielle Beverly

The first screening will be held at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, June 20 in Chadakoin Park, 10th and Washington St., Jamestown. It is sponsored by the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation, the College Community Gardens at Jamestown Community College and the Jamestown Juneteenth Committee. In case of rain, they plan to move to the Lillian Ney Renaissance Center on 3rd and Washington, Jamestown.

The second showing will be at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, June 21 in the Pelion Community Garden (across from City Honors School), 206 Best St., Buffalo. In case of rain, the screening will move to the Foundry, 298 North Hampton, Buffalo.

See the Old South film page on Facebook for updates on whether the screenings will be moved indoors.

You can see the trailer for Old South here.

“People who do gardening can understand that the garden plays a significant role in bringing these two communities together,” Beverly said. “The garden provided a place for people to interact with one another. They took it upon themselves to move the relationship forward.”

The film takes place over 3 ½ years. While it documents a particular conflict in a neighborhood in Georgia, “it’s emblematic of the divisions in many American communities,” Beverly said.

The film is quiet and not judgmental, she said. “I allow people to speak fully, and the audience to take away what they wish.”

The inspiration for showing the film in gardens came at a rough-cut screening. A young person told about his experience in a community garden, with people working hard, side by side, in a place that was also meditative.

Beverly decided to take the film out of theaters “into these verdant places that people have a real affinity to, and a connection to, so they can sit side by side with others who feel the same.”  Dubbed the “Healing Spaces” tour, it can bring together people who might not have an occasion to meet each other, and together they can think about the issues of gentrification and race relations.

“People who like to garden– they get it,” Beverly said. “They understand these spaces.”

The tour was funded by a grant for unusual and innovative ways for disseminating work. The grant came from the New York State Council on the Arts through Wave Farm, a non-profit arts organization.

The film will also be shown at film festivals in San Francisco, Atlanta and elsewhere in the South.

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