Taming the Garden
The desires of the 1% reach surreal levels in this documentary about a Georgian billionaire who paid to transport trees across the Black Sea to populate his garden.
Bidzina Ivanishvili is the 65-year-old former Prime Minister of Georgia. He is also a businessman who made a fortune during Russia’s rush to privatisation in the 1990s. Like any member of the über wealthy set, he owns a residence that would suit a Bond villain. But its garden didn’t match his vision, so over the years, and the country’s strict conservation laws notwithstanding, employees of Ivanishvili located trees that suited his requirements, purchased them from landowners and then had them shipped individually to his residence. To see each tree standing aboard a barge is a surreal sight. But it pales when compared to the machinations that got it there.
Salomé Jashi’s film is a deadpan look at the trappings of extreme wealth in contrast to the lives of those paid to give up a piece of their world. Some are happy to be rid of an unwanted tree, while others bemoan the loss of what amounts to a part of their history. The film details the challenges the excavators face, along with the reactions of former owners and the solitude of the trees as they make their way to Ivanishvili’s Shangri-La. But Jashi never loses sight of the bigger picture – of the huge gap between the have nots and that small group who think they are entitled to have anything.