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      A Man Named Pearl
    Prune pits

    Black and white and green all over.


    It's no wonder that "A Man Named Pearl," the 78 minute documentary about amateur plant sculptor Pearl Fryar, won a Crystal Heart Award, since it's desire to warm our hearts is all too transparent. He's actually etched the phrase "Love, Peace & Goodwill" onto his grounds in flower filled letters. Talk about a feel good flick!

    Fryar's story, while unique and certainly worth telling, has already been told dozens of times over in magazines and newspapers, including the "New York Times" and was even a segment on CBS Sunday Morning. Seems the self-taught topiary artist responded to a racial slur uttered in 1976 by deciding to win his town's 'Yard of the Month' award, something no African-American had ever done.

    Directed by: Scott Galloway, Brent Pierson.
    Produced by: Scott Galloway.
    Cast: Pearl Fryar.
    Cinematography: J. Steven Anderson.
    Edited by: Greg Grzeszczak.
    Music by: Fred Story.

    Related links: Official site
    So, armed with a hedge cutter the size of a small chainsaw, he began to plant and trim trees and bushes on his three acres of land, until they resembled the Tim Burton sets for "Edward Scissorhands." And he won that yard award along with the approbation of the white townsfolk who had originally cast aspersions on black people's yards. Moreover, his designs became an economic boon to his town of Bishopville, South Carolina by creating a media and tourist attraction. (Check out his website at and You Tube videos.)

      A Man Named Pearl
    The film manages to deal with such major themes as race relations, artistic fulfillment, and economic revival and yet it still seems over long at only slightly more than an hour. Before television, filmmaker John Nesbitt made over 50 shorts under the umbrella catch phrase "The Passing Parade" — many, if not all, of which can be seen on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) as filler. They dealt with various historical, scientific, and/or human interest themes

    "A Man Named Pearl" is reminiscent of Nesbitt's "Annie Was a Wonder" (1949), the story of Annie Swenson, one of myriad Scandinavian immigrant girls who came to America in the early 20th century hoping for a better life. Swenson worked as a cook/housekeeper for the Nesbitts and he immortalized her virtues in a scant 11 minutes.

    Fryar's story, while unique and certainly worth telling, has already been told dozens of times over in magazines and newspapers.  

    Perhaps co-directors Scott Galloway and Brent Pierson should have reviewed "Fast, Cheap & Out of Control," Errol Morris's wacky 80 minute doc, 20 minutes of which were dedicated to the work of topiary gardner George Mendo, before deciding to tell Fryar's story yet again. Where the Morris film is humorous and edgy, their's seems rambling and unfocused.

    Even the title is off the mark, as little is made of his odd name and several viewers at the screening I attended thought the film was going to be about the late journalist Daniel Pearl. However, the still youthful 68 year old Fryar is a remarkable man and his story might make a very good narrative film. Someone ought to send Morgan Freeman the DVD and a weed whacker!

    JULY 30, 2008

    Reader comments on A Man Named Pearl:

  • Pearl   from JW, Aug 15, 2012

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