Here is a short film, Isabelle’s Garden, that looks at a Native American community in Oklahoma. While it looks at poverty, there is much more to it.
The short film was just screened at the Sundance Film Festival, and was entered into their Short Film Challenge, where it was among 9 winners.
The star of the film is Isabelle, a 10-year-old Choctaw girl, who tends her garden, and then delivers her produce to those who need in town. In true Native American tradition, those who send out blessings receive blessings in return.
In the film, bare feet are used as an indicator of poverty. Isabelle is barefoot throughout. While we barefooters really don’t think there is a correlation between bare feet and poverty any more, it still evokes that feeling in film-goers, so I guess we should expect it in a film like this.
Here’s Isabelle tending her garden.
After she’s picked her produce, she loads it onto her bicycle, which she rides into town (barefoot), to start delivering.
While the film is using bare feet to indicate poverty, I notice that she does have shoes. They’re shown right at the beginning of the film.
So she could wear shoes if she wanted to. I’ll take it that she really didn’t want to, or need to, wear shoes.
There was one thing I noticed, though. Here’s a foot close-up (while Isabelle is still in bed, just rousing herself).
And here’s another shot of one of her feet while she is walking her bike across some gravel.
Those are shoe-damaged feet. It’s probably not obvious to the normal viewer, but barefooters know that that looks like. (By the way, Isabelle does a pretty good job walking across the gravel like a true barefooter.)
I guess we should not be surprised.
The actor is Isabelle Cox, from Durant, Oklahoma, the heart of the Choctaw Nation. As is the case throughout the country as a whole (with very few exceptions), schools require shoes. Things are no different in the Durant Independent School District, where the school handbook says
All students are required to wear shoes. Cleated shoes are not to be worn in the school building. House shoes are not acceptable footwear.
So bare feet are really no longer a sign of poverty. If anything, shoe-damaged feet might be an indicator of poverty these days, when shoes are required but continually buying new shoes for growing feet can be a burden.
And don’t forget that this is a film, not a documentary. It’s getting across an idea, the idea of sharing and looking after one another in poverty.
The film-makers are Jeff and Lauren Palmer, who are Native American themselves. You can see a short interview with them.
There is also an interview at this link.
Here’s the film itself. Enjoy.