“Garden” is a documentary about a topic you don’t hear mentioned every day: male teenage prostitutes in Tel Aviv (which has a section called the Garden where prostitutes seem to congregate). And lest you think that sounds like a glamourous, easy life, understand that the two teens who are the focus of this film, Nino and Dudu, suffer beatings at the hands of police and secret service men, battle drug problems, are escaping horrid family lives, and don’t know where their next meal will come from because they are homeless. Giving hand jobs to old men in cars for fifty shekels isn’t just something American teens do.
This film is an unapologetic look at a side of life few Americans ever think about, let alone want to know about. It also lets the two kids tell their story. They come from a background of family hatred (Nino’s brother actually shot him) and long to belong somewhere. They also give much lip service to the concept of being free, something plenty of young homeless people here in America romanticize as well. But what these tortured souls are is anything but free. When you have to scrape for every meal, when you have to sleep on filthy mattresses in squats that can be raided at any moment, when you depend on the kindness of others (when you can’t steal from them), you aren’t free. You’re a prisoner. You may be able to get up and leave at any moment (if you aren’t in jail), but you’ve got nowhere to really go. It’s something Nino and Dudu realize, but refuse to think about in too much detail. It’s easier to get screwed by seniors and pop pills than it is to actually assess and change one’s dire situation.
If there’s one thing this film can teach those who aren’t in that life it’s that if parents didn’t abuse their children, if they didn’t make them feel less than human because their sexuality may be different — they may not end up on the streets whoring themselves out when they aren’t being tortured by police. Parents have a bigger influence on their children than they think, and “Garden” is perfect proof of that. Parents can blame society and loose morals, but the real cause is in the mirror. Treat your children like pariahs, and they will live like them. Treat them like your children, and they’ll have no need to be selling themselves in the Garden.