Taming the Garden

Director Salomé Jashi / 2021 / Georgia,Germany,Switzerland

Like a real-life fairytale, Taming the Garden is the story of an unseen billionaire who ‘steals’ trees in his desire to build his own private Eden.

Somewhere off the Black Sea coast, a gargantuan tree floats serenely on a barge. It’s a surreal sylvan image, and the story behind it is equally curious. Centuries ago, the tree started its life in a Georgian forest. Now, it’s destined for another life, miles away, in a man-made arboretum owned by an eccentric billionaire, whose uprooting of the ancient giant – and many others like it – has caused both condemnation and celebration among local villagers.

This immensely wealthy individual, former Georgian prime minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, never appears in documentarian Salomé Jashi’s lyrical, spellbinding film, but his presence is profoundly felt in every frame. As it soberly follows the workers involved in the day-to-day engineering challenges of excising and unearthing these trees, as well as the locals who lament their removal or who stand to gain financially from it, Taming the Garden presents an extraordinary and surreal picture of individual affluence and ambition pitted against the collective weight of natural history and living memory.

“No film has lingered in my memory longer … Not just because the images, starting with that opening shot of something that immediately feels both beautiful and wrong, are breathtaking. It lays out a complicated argument about ecology, economics, compromise, class and humanity’s need to conquer and/or ‘tame’ nature.” – Rolling Stone

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