'Gimme Green' ? grass, that is
Documentary examines our love of our lawns and what it takes to keep them lush.
The Times-Union | May 19, 2007
By Brandy Hilboldt Allport

Four-wheel drive garden tractors, sweat and money contribute to perfectly manicured yards from Florida to California.

Examine America's obsession with lush lawns at a screening of Gimme Green at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Theatre Jacksonville as part of the Jacksonville Film Festival. Isaac Brown, who grew up in Yulee and Fernandina Beach, and Eric Flagg of Gainesville co-directed the 27-minute documentary. The two met in graduate school at the University of Florida and spent a year and a half shooting and editing Gimme Green . It's a straightforward look at the consumption involved in maintaining a yard. They found that some people embrace lawn care with a fierce sense of personal and civic pride. Homeowners speak on camera about how a tidy lawn reflects a tidy, well-lived life.

Others in the documentary replace grass with artificial turf, or let their yards develop naturally, much to the chagrin of neighbors who vie for lawn-of-the-month prizes.

Among vignettes of sod farmers, pesticide company employees, a real-estate agent and average green-thumbers, Brown and Flagg juxtapose statistics.

Facts from the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey and pesticide research organizations are displayed on a black screen in white type. The cha chink, chinka cha chink of a sod-harvesting machine provides an aural backdrop.

At more than 40 million acres, grass is the most irrigated crop in the United States.

"We are not trying to pass judgment," Brown said. "We are just presenting different perspectives."

Nearly 97 percent of the world's water is saltwater or otherwise undrinkable. Another 2 percent is locked up in ice caps and glaciers. That leaves only 1 percent for all of humanity's agricultural, residential, industrial and community needs.

"We want viewers to decide for themselves whether they should have a traditional lawn," Flagg said. "With this documentary we were trying to create a formula to re-evaluate the way we view any consumer resource, especially the ones we have always used. It's impossible to present all the alternatives in a 30-minute movie, but we hoped to spark a conversation about seemingly benign products."

Brown and Flagg earned master's degrees from University of Florida's Documentary Institute for Gimme Green . It made its debut in February at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, Mont. (By the way, Missoula is called "The Garden City" because of its mild temperatures compared to the rest of Montana.) Gimme Green is a finalist in the 2007 Student Academy Awards, sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Winners will be announced Saturday, June 9, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, Calif.

brandy.allport@jacksonville.com , (904) 359-4378