Garden (documentary; Hebrew/Arabic)

The Garden is a seedy area of Tel Aviv, home to prostitutes and drug dealers, professions both held by Nino and Dudu in the documentary “Garden.”

Directed by Ruthie Shatz and Adi Barash, the film is notable for its intimacy. Nino and Dudu, both teenagers and best friends, allow the filmmakers access to nearly every aspect of their lives.

Nino, a Palestinian constantly on the run from Israeli law enforcement, has been in jail and is destined to return there, though his attitude remains cavalier, his smile nearly constant. Dudu, an Arab-Israeli whose voice is scarred by years of smoking and whose body is poisoned by as years of drug use, worries for his friend’s safety. In between, they perform sex acts for money and dabble in drug distribution, while constantly on the lookout for a place to stay.

Where the film falls short, however, is that it fails to indicate what drove the boys to this life. There is no implication that this was the only alternative for them; they both have families not far away, and Nino is still in touch with his. In an area as fundamentally religious as the Middle East, surely the people have strong feelings about homosexuality. Was that a factor for Nino and Dudu? Is this all a young gay person in Israel CAN do with his life? The film ignores the subject of religion altogether, and barely addresses gay-bashing.

And so we see a great many details of the boys’ lives and personalities, but little about their past or their future. The film has a superficial air about it, focusing tightly on two trees and consequently neglecting the forest that would give them context.

C (1 hr., 25 min.; in Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles; Not Rated, probably R for a lot of harsh profanity, some sexual dialogue.)