Price: $350.00

    Code: 2532

    A film by Brandon Kramer
    2015, 76 minutes
    Purchase: $350 | Classroom rental: $125
    Optional closed captions
    Call us at 212-685-6242 for special non-profit, public library, and K-12 pricing.
    Educational guide available Fall 2016

    A complex tale of social justice, urban forestry and community politics, City of Trees portrays the struggles of a DC non-profit to challenge the cycle of poverty and violence in blighted urban areas by implementing an ambitious “green jobs” program that hires 150 unemployed residents to plant trees in underserved parks.

    With unemployment exceeding 25 percent in Washington D.C.'s Ward 8 during the Great Recession, nonprofit Washington Parks & People receives a $2.7 million stimulus grant to put long-term unemployed residents back to work through a new green job training program.

    City of Trees profiles Steve Coleman, a grassroots environmental activist who directs the organization, and three employees, each struggling against a history of missed opportunities, as they begin to transform their lives by transforming landscapes. For Charles Holcomb, the paycheck offers him a chance to give his newborn daughter the life he never had. For Michael Samuels, the job training is a first step forward after a drug conviction marred his employment record. For James Magruder, the program offers a chance to prove that his neighborhood roots position him as an unsung leader.

    What sounds like a simple goal — putting people back to work by planting trees in a blighted neighborhood — becomes complicated by local racial tensions, a community’s entrenched distrust of outsiders, and a fast-approaching deadline before the grant money runs out. Filmed over the course of more than two years, City of Trees thrusts viewers into the inspiring but untidy world of job training and the paradoxes changemakers face in urban communities every day.

    The filmmaking team of City of Trees is available for speaking engagements. For more information, please contact us at (212) 685-6242.

    Subjects & Collections

    Festivals & Awards

    Winner, Audience Choice Award, American Conservation Film Festival
    Winner, Best Director, Chesapeake Film Festival
    Official Selection, Full Frame Documentary
    Official Selection, Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
    Official Selection, Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
    Official Selection, Environmental Film Festival at Yale
    Official Selection, Princeton Film Festival
    Official Selection, Workers Unite Film Festival
    Official Selection, St. Louis International Film Festival
    Official Selection, Washington DC International Film Festival


    City of Trees is honest. It is real. It explores the messy truths embedded in all fights for environmental and social justice. The film offers a window into the nuances, hopes and fears that play out whenever well-intentioned people try to make things better in struggling urban communities.” - Van Jones, CNN political commentator, New York Times bestselling author

    "Recommended."- Educational Media Reviews Online

    "Beautiful and engaging. City of Trees offers a great “new narrative” to counter the conventional formula of the traditional success story and explores different dimensions of social and environmental justice." - Thomas Walker, PhD Director of the Environmental Studies Program, Goucher College

    "City of Trees is an expertly crafted, intimately rendered, verite documentary that offers a critical look at a grassroots nonprofit designed to make change in an underserved, primarily black residential area of Southeast DC. In reflecting the story of this environmentally focused training program that received stimulus support during the recession, City of Treescaptures a DC story that can be applied to urban American areas well beyond The District. This film has great potential in the classroom to open up dialogue around white privilege within social change campaigns. The film closely examines how race and class difference functions, and the real tension between wanting to change and improve the environment with the urgent need to secure good jobs for one’s family, safety and well-being. Ultimately, City of Trees reveals how valuable the program is, but how necessary inclusive interpersonal work in the environmental effort must be." - Giovanna Chesler, Director of Film & Video Studies Program, George Mason University

    "Focusing on the struggles of managing a non-profit organization while simultaneously seeking to implement a local park's beautification and the empowerment of its neighboring citizens, this handsomely shot story makes its viewers intimate observers of the emotional journeys experienced by both the project leaders and the hired staff who passionately grab at this opportunity to improve their lives." - Chris Haley Director of the Study of the Legacy of Slavery in Maryland Maryland State Archives

    "A subtly powerful, insightful, and at times poignant social and environmental documentary. City of Trees so brilliantly succeeds not because it is an environmental film (though it clearly is) but rather because, as a terrific labor film, it uses an environmental program as a prism into the interconnected intricacies of work, race, class, urban space, male breadwinner gender roles and community politics. The Kramers skillfully immerse viewers in the challenging workplace and home lives of several staffers and the manual laborers they employ. " - Jason Kozlowski, Labor Historian and Labor Educator West Virginia University Institute for Labor Studies and Research

    "A poignant way to jumpstart a new people-focused conversation on the effects of incarceration. City of Trees captures the reality of living in a disenfranchised urban community; the day-to-day experience of participating in a job training program as a returning citizen; and the story of minority participation in the emerging green economy. can play an important role in these conversations, connecting the dots between reentry, environmental justice, poverty and access to good jobs." - The Huffington Post


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