In 2020, Cornell Botanic Gardens co-sponsored a film series on gardens and gardeners with Cornell Cinema. Staff met after viewing for a peer discussion.

January 30, 2020: Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf

After completing a feature documentary on New York’s High Line, award-winning filmmaker Thomas Piper met the inspirational designer and plantsman, Piet Oudolf, and the idea for a new project was born. The documentary, Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf, immerses viewers in Oudolf’s work and takes us inside his creative process, from his beautifully abstract sketches, to theories on beauty, to the ecological implications of his ideas. Intimate discussions take place through all fours seasons in Piet’s own gardens at Hummelo, and on visits to his signature public works in New York, Chicago, and the Netherlands, as well as to the far-flung locations that inspire his genius, including desert wildflowers in West Texas and post-industrial forests in Pennsylvania.

February 6, 2020: The Garden

From the ashes of the LA riots in 1992 rose a most amazing sight—a 14-acre community garden at 41st and Alameda in South Central Los Angeles, the largest community garden in the United States. This amazing oasis amidst urban blight, planted and operated by mostly low-income Latino families, received news in 2004 that they were being evicted, setting into motion a hard-fought legal battle that exposes corrupt politicians, back-room politics, and racism. As some politicians, including the soon-to-be-Mayor, smile for photo-ops among the vegetables while also stating their belief that nothing can be done, and bulldozers take up residence outside the garden gates, the farmers organize a surprisingly effective grassroots battle and win some skirmishes in the courts. But even as stars like Danny Glover and, especially, Darryl Hannah, take up the cause and bring national attention, the terrible outcome is never truly in doubt. Powerful, inspirational, heartbreaking and infuriating, in The Garden “the message is clear: No matter how well you till the land in Los Angeles, a toxic mess is never far away.” (SF Chronicle) Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

February 13, 2020:  The Garden of the Finzi-Continis

This Academy Award winning Holocaust film by neo-realist director De Sica (based on the novel by Giorgio Bassani) casts a saddening chill, even though it includes no scenes of concentration camp horrors or storm troopers on a rampage. The story of an aristocratic Jewish family in Italy in the years directly preceding the War is mostly set on the luxurious estate where the Finzi-Continis live an exquisite and sheltered existence. Lushly filmed, the pastel colored reverie of the past tells a haunting, bittersweet and eventually devastating story about the dangers of living life oblivious to the things beyond your gates.

February 20, 2020: Orlando

Based on the novel by Virginia Woolf, this is the lavish story of a young nobleman who lives through five hundred years of surreal adventures, nonchalantly changing into a woman midway through. A mischievous and marvelous film that explores the depths of history, fantasy, and gender. It also features some fabulous garden scenes in which Swinton “walks between vast yews in a maize, first in 18th century satins, then running away in the mist in a huge, billowing Victorian, green-black crinoline, almost like she’s wearing a hot air balloon, across the rough grass from the maze, out into the field where she falls and whispers fiercely into the turf 'Nature, nature I am your bride, take me’.” (The Telegraph) In English and French.

February 27, 2020: The Biggest Little Farm 

The film chronicles the eight-year quest of John and Molly Chester as they trade city living for 200 acres of barren farmland outside of LA and a dream to harvest in harmony with nature. Through dogged perseverance and embracing the opportunity provided by nature's conflicts, the Chesters unlock and uncover a biodiverse design for living that exists far beyond their farm, its seasons, and our wildest imagination.