New documentary Taming the Garden follows an ancient tree’s journey to a Georgian tycoon’s property – a tale of limb-cracking ruthlessness and mythic beauty
V illagers gather round kitchen tables, squabbling about the fate of huge trees, some of which have stood for centuries in front of their homes. What does one tree matter if its removal means the roads will be improved, argues a man, while an old woman mutters ominously about payback in the next life.
Outside, majestic oaks and limes quiver as bulldozers carve trenches round their roots and industrial pipes are driven beneath their gnarled and mossy trunks. The aim is not to destroy them but to move them to a new home: a lush arboreal Shangri-La that is being conjured up by one of Georgia’s richest and most powerful men.
These little back-yard dramas, played out in the Georgian countryside over a period of two years, are the subject of Taming the Garden. It is the second feature film from the TV journalist turned documentary director Salomé Jashi, who was inspired to make it after seeing news footage of a tree floating sedately along the Black Sea coast on a boat.