IDFA Review: Racist Trees

While America will claim that it’s a multicultural country which treats all its citizens the same, it has a really troubling history with race. While slavery was officially abolished in the 19th century, it wasn’t until the Civil Rights Act a hundred years later that segregation and discrimination on the grounds of race became illegal. However, to this day, inequality and prejudice is endemic in many parts of the United States.

Something is afoot in Palm Springs in a majority black community in the neighbourhood of Crossley Tract. The huge golf course which borders their houses has been screened off using a row of tamarisk trees for decades. This invasive, non-indigenous, species has been steadily creeping into their gardens. Requests to remove the trees have been frequently rejected by the city council, but now they have a white spokesperson. Racist Trees follows the story.

Using interviews with residents outside their homes and following the legal case, Racist Trees unpeels the layers of institutional racism and prejudice at play in southern California. Sara Newens and Mina T. Son’s film takes a deep dive in to the dispute and uncovers the strange and bizarre facts behind the debate. There is clearly a lot more to the argument than first meets the eye. Racist Trees is a fascinating insight into equality issues within a small community.

Racist Trees screens at IDFA.

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