ISRAEL / 2003 / Hebrew, Arabic / Color / Video / 85 min
Directors, Producers: Ruthie Shatz, Adi Barash
Editing: Janus Billeskov Jansen
Music: Uri Frost
Sound Design: Aviv Aldema
World Sales: Deckert Distribution
In the “Electricity Garden” district of Tel Aviv, two teenage prostitutes, Nino and Dudu, go about their business as two directors film them intimately. In a communally-inhabited derelict building, men/women full of individuality gradually open up to the camera as well. The teens continually face violence, drug addiction, the fear of being deported, of going to jail, and the disdain of being Arab. In their caged reality, they soar through the streets with abandon. Painfully gentle, their friendship and their hopes for the future disappear into the abyss of the camera, and the night.
[Director’s Statement] Garden took three years to make and even longer to plan. During our years as students we used to pass by the Garden watching, but not watching the teens that worked there, thinking we must do something about it. When we first came to the Garden in order to make a film we realized it was going to be a long and heartbreaking journey. One of the first decisions we made was that there must be some hope—not only for the boys but also for us as filmmakers.
When we met Nino and Dudu and understood the strength of their friendship, we realized there might be some hope. Nino and Dudu are young male prostitutes working in the “Electricity Garden” in downtown Tel Aviv. Our film follows them for a year, revealing the intricacies of their lives, the way their reality is transformed and the evolution of their friendship. Both youths experienced abuse at the hands of family members, both found themselves on the streets, prostituting for a living. Nino and Dudu are both survivors, and their intelligence, wit and a strong will make them the “elite” of the Garden’s young prostitutes. They talk about their yearning to flee the Garden’s choking grip, but instant cash has an addictive quality making them unable to escape the cycle of ambiguous freedom and dire instability.
Nino and Dudu take us through a journey of survival and close friendship on the streets of Tel Aviv. As they try to keep sane, we watch them develop insight into their situation. They accept who they are while trying to improve their lot in life, all the while fighting the police, getting beaten, being thrown to jail, dealing with clients and trying to maneuver the Israeli “system.” The two share a remarkable story of friendship that exposes not only the harsh reality of teenage prostitution but also illuminates the complexity of being a Palestinian, an Arab-Israeli and an immigrant in Israel.
Award winning documentary filmmakers Adi Barash and Ruthie Shatz make strong and revealing documentaries with a unique and uncompromising cinematic approach. Garden won the Special Mention at the Sevilla Film Festival 2004, the Award for Best Documentary at the Turin International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival 2005, and has been screened at numerous international film festivals.