Nino and Dudu are young male prostitutes working in the "electricity garden" in downtown Tel-Aviv. The film follows their lives for a year, revealing the intricacies of their daily lives, the way their reality is transformed and their friendship evolves. 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 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 lead the narrative of the film. They met in 2002 in a street fight. They fought on opposing sides. On that day, Dudu and Nino almost killed each other, but something clicked, and they became friends. In fact, soon they became blood brothers. Their friendship helped them overcome many difficulties: Nino is a Palestinian kid who escaped the Palestinian jail after being sentenced to death for collaborating with Israel. And Dudu follows Nino loyally, even at the price of getting caught during a robbery and dealing drugs during Nino's three months prison term. Dudu stands by his friend all along his attempts to run away and during the latter's disheartening court trial.
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 try to 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 the clients and trying to maneuver the Israeli "system".
The two lead characters share a remarkable story of friendship that exposes not only a harsh reality of teen-aged prostitution but also illuminates the complexity of being a Palestinian, an Arab-Israeli and an immigrant in Israel. They are always on the run...
YEAR / 2004
DIRECTOR / Adi Barash & Ruthie Shatz
RUNTIME / 84 min
"A poignant verite life-slice"
"Well-made docu provides nonexploitative insight"
"Heartbreaking, passionate and articulate."
"Their vivid personalities and troubled friendship tells a larger-than-life story, presented with compassion and urgency."
THE INDEPENDENT WEEKLY
Directors Shatz and Barash paint a strong, dispassionate and candid portrait of boys who have run away from home, The film succeeds in drawing you into this dark world and successfully transcends a simple study of the friendship between two boys to explore far bigger themes of Arab culture, homosexuality, the impact of the political situation on all levels of society, illegals, resident status and the omnipresence of God.
"Garden" is one of a small stream of films coming out of Israel that tells stories beyond the confines of the conflict and the struggle for territory. In the end, you feel the pain of teenagers coming to grips with their own sexuality who have to risk their lives having sex with unknown men on a daily basis, just to survive.