One of two documentaries being screened in Powell River on Friday, April 21, The Thinking Garden chronicles the lives of a group of women who came together near the end of apartheid in South Africa.
The 35-minute film, about a women’s community farm in a South African village, details how three generations of women, who are all grandmothers, united in a grassroots response to facilitate positive change through their garden.
According to the film’s cinematographer and sound recordist Moira Simpson, the women accomplished their goal in the midst of punishing unemployment, poverty, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and severe drought brought on by back-to-back El Niños.
More than anything, said Simpson, the film focuses on the resilience of the women, age 60 to 80, who work the farm.
“There are funerals every single weekend for people who have died from AIDS,” said Simpson. “They would make food every weekend from the farm and take food to people who were ill. They just helped their community in so many ways, and they love the farm.”
The women have formed more than a community on the farm, they have formed a family, said Simpson.
“We felt really honoured to be on the farm and the women were wonderfully generous to us,” she added.
The project was funded by Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, more commonly referred to as the GoGo Grannies.
Jan Padgett, member of a local GoGo Grannies group called Sunshine GoGos, became involved with the organization because of her great admiration for Lewis, a prominent Canadian with a long list of accomplishments and commitment to social causes, particularly in Africa as a United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS.
“The campaign took off like crazy,” said Padgett. “Groups sprung up all over the place.”
Canadians have raised more than $24 million for African grandmothers through Grandmothers to Grandmothers and resources are invested directly at community level, including the village garden.
In addition to The Thinking Garden, Sunshine GoGos will also present a screening of The Sharing Farm, a film about a project to collect and distribute fruit in Richmond. The project has grown into an inspiring community garden promoting food security and awareness.
The evening is meant to draw attention to the power food has to initiate change, according to Padgett, and to pass along a deeper message.
“The most important message we can pass on is that we all have to care,” said Padgett. “Every choice we make affects everything else, however big, however small. The more humanitarian we can be, the more inclusive we can be and the more caring we can be with our environment. It’s all really important.”
With Grandmothers to Grandmothers, Padgett said the solidarity between women here and in Africa is deep and moving.
When the final cut of The Thinking Garden was shown to the women involved with the farm and garden, Simpson, who will be in attendance at the screening, said one of them called it a miracle.
Billed as an evening of food, film and festivities, the event begins at 7 pm in Max Cameron Theatre.