There is a good chance you have not heard nor know much about the titular city of writer-director Bob Hurst’s Garden City, Kansas. It is known to be one of the more diverse places in Kansas. It is also infamous for a bomb threat aimed at the Muslim community. The filmmaker uses animation to document the bomb plot and examine the people that make up the city as well as the role of an FBI informant.
In 2016, a group of white supremacists plotted to kill Somali Muslims in Garden City, Kansas. Patrick Eugene, Curtis Allen, and Gavin Wright wanted to eradicate the Muslim community within the city. Another man who was tied to the plot was Dan Day, the informant. For months, the group would stake out schools, stores, and anywhere else Muslims would gather to figure out where their attack should be. Their main target would be an apartment complex that contained a Somali mosque.
Along with the recounting of the bomb plot, the film focuses on the history of the city and how it was built by a diverse community of Mexicans, Native Americans, and Muslims, among others. It follows several immigrants looking to get citizenship. Documenting the history, as well as its present and potential future, makes sense, especially given the title being Garden City, Kansas.
“…one of the more diverse places in Kansas. It is also infamous for a bomb threat aimed at the Muslim community.”
When it comes to recounting the bomb plot, the film has Paul Fellers voice Dan Day. The ending in memoriam for Dan Day explains the reason for a voice-over. Having animation is a unique touch that works better than dramatization, but at the same time, it somehow gives the proceedings a lighter feeling than a film like this should have. Again, I think it is a better move to use animation than using actor dramatization or reenactments, as sometimes it those come off terribly.
Before watching Garden City, Kansas, I had never heard of the city nor the events that took place. After watching it, I feel like I’m pretty knowledgeable about the unique municipality. This is what good documentaries do: they provide lots of information that makes you feel like you have learned more. I think that the film was unique in how it used animation, but I also feel that with the film being about an unfortunate event such as a bomb plot, it could have had more of a serious tone at times.
Garden City, Kansas is about 50/50 — half of it is about the bomb plot, and the other half is about the city itself. I think this works to an extent. Exploring the background of the city gives more empathy to the Muslim community and the residents who were so maliciously targeted. Being an immigrant holds many struggles as it is, then you have places where racism is still an issue that makes it even harder for people to pursue the freedom they seek. The film does a fine job of displaying the many layers of cultures and the good and bad that come with being a foreigner.
"…does a fine job of displaying the many layers of cultures..."