I pity the moviegoer who hasn't discovered the wonderful world of documentary films.
The 2006 Heartland Film Festival has been a shining example of the wide array of interesting, thought provoking and entertaining subjects being covered by today's documentary filmmakers.
"A Man Named Pearl" is the perfect example.
"A Man Named Pearl" tells the story of self-taught topiary artist Pearl Fryar, an African-American man in his mid 60's living in Bishopville, South Carolina.
The son of sharecroppers, Pearl has long worked a full-time job while maintaining a yard that would make Edward Scissorhands proud. In fact, the crew from the film "Edward Scissorhands" actually visited Fryar's yard, a three-acre concoction of freestyle art, shapes, squares, circles and abstract designs with a bold center piece that says it all quite clearly "Peace, Love and Good Will."
Fryar got started on his yard shortly after moving to Bishopville. He'd initially looked at a home in a primarily White neighborhood, however, was discouraged from moving into neighborhood. Neighbors would one day acknowledge that one of their fears had been that Fryar, being Black, wouldn't take care of his yard.
There goes that stereotype.
In "A Man Named Pearl," directors Scott Galloway and Brent Pierson have created a simple, straightforward documentary centered squarely on Pearl, a laid back, faithful and often funny man whose humility doesn't begin to reflect upon the considerable notoriety that his topiary artistry has brought him.
Pearl has clearly put the small town of Bishopville on the map, as virtually everyone from the Waffle House manager to the director of the Chamber of Commerce acknowledges.
Pierson and Galloway have wisely not tried to change the quaint charm of Bishopville, and the townsfolk come to life onscreen in the way only a small town in South Carolina could. There's the local Black preacher at the A.M.E. church who smiles as he acknowledges Pearl's generous anonymous donations, as well as the almost used car salesman approach from the Chamber of Commerce director. "A Man Named Pearl" is consistently inspiring, but it's almost as equally funny.
From the local students who arrive for field trips to the tour buses who stop by his yard regularly, it is clear that Pearl spends much of his days giving and receiving love and appreciation. While there is a donation box in front of his house, Pearl makes it very clear that there is no fee to visit his grounds and nobody will ever be turned down for inability to donate.
Pearl hasn't forgotten his roots, and he hasn't forgotten his responsibility to lift up others along the way.
As Pearl so beautifully says "In this life you're gonna have obstacles. The thing about it is, don't let those obstacles determine where you go." Pearl Fryar has turned a life filled with road blocks into a journey filled with the peace, love and good will he so fervently offers others.
"A Man Named Pearl" is a simple film about a man who chooses to live simply himself. Pierson and Galloway avoid camera tricks, gimmicks and manipulative staging. Instead, they give us all we really need..."A Man Named Pearl."
"A Man Named Pearl" received its world premiere at the 2006 Heartland Film Festival where it received a Crystal Heart Award. Pearl himself was on hand to receive the award during the Crystal Heart Awards Gala this past weekend.