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Movie Review: City of Trees

Abigail Benjamin

D.C. Filmmakers, Lance Kramer and Brandon Kramer, won the Audience Choice Award for their film City of Trees at the American Conservation Film Festival on November 1, 2015. This intimate documentary follows a Green Jobs Project in Ward 8, one of the poorest areas of Washington, D.C. In the film, a non-profit called Washington Parks and People, received a 2 million dollar stimulus grant to teach urban forestry to former prision inmates and other unemployed residents of D.C.

There is something innately delightful about touching a tree. The filmmakers captured the joy on the job trainee's faces as they learned about urban forestry. Without preaching, this documentary showcases the dignity of work and the healing power of nature. I loved watching men hang from a tree for the first time and struggle to critique each other in a practice job interview. In another favorite scene, a father holds up the sunglasses he bought for his unborn daughter with money from his first paycheck.

The job of planting trees inside Ward 8 is not easy. One screenshot shows a murder victim dying a few feet away from huddled workers at a park job site. Later, community tensions result in the employer's tires getting cut in an act of vandalism and a political tussle that seemly uniquely fierce in a Capital City divided by both politics and race.  

This documentary allows us deep access into the thoughts of participants. Chronic unemployment, Impoverished Communities and Environmentalism are situations that don't sit easily with each other. I appreciated the restraint that the filmmakers showed to avoid pat answers to the problems of brown grass, dying trees, and litter in Ward 8 Parks. I join in the filmakers hope that kids can play in the red and gold leaves under healthy Maples and Tulip Trees in Ward 8 Parks next Fall.