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A Man Named Pearl

An earnest yet inspiring documentary
By ALICIA POTTER  |  October 1, 2008
2.5 2.5 Stars


The white folks didn’t want Pearl Fryar in their neighborhood: an African-American wouldn’t keep up his yard. But Fryar showed them — spectacularly so, as we see in this earnest yet inspiring documentary from first-time directors Scott Galloway and Brent Pierson. Fueled by creative yearning as much as by the desire for payback, Fryar went on to put rinky-dink Bishopville, South Carolina, on the map, transforming his three acres into an impeccably elegant topiary garden. Not that he’s smug: the self-taught artist/horticulturalist proves a humble interview, and it’s up to a somewhat repetitious procession of admirers (they’re big on “seed” metaphors) to shape his story. The effect is more fond tribute than psychological study. Yet the film makes up for its lack of conflict with the quiet power of its imagery: a descendant of sharecroppers coaxing scrubby brush into great green gumdrops and sculptural swirls. 78 minutes | Museum Of Fine Arts: October 3, 4, 12, 16, 18

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