"It's the one time in my life ignorance paid off," chuckles Pearl Fryar, a humble man with no eduction in horticulture who, after years of dedicated work, created an astonishing garden in the economically depressed town of Bishopville, S.C. But A Man Named Pearl doesn't just wander among the three acres of Fryar's beautifully sculpted trees and bushes, all created from plants Fryar rescued from the scrap heaps of local nurseries. The documentary shows how his singular vision spread out to affect the community, leading to Fryar being commissioned by art museums and turning Bishopville into a topiary mecca. But despite reviving the economic fortunes of the town, getting national recognition and free food from his local waffle house, and even becoming an unlikely sex symbol, Fryar remains thoughtful, warm, and dynamic, eager to help students and troubled youth discover their unexplored potential. A Man Named Pearl carefully balances the mysteries of the creative impulse with the fundamental humaneness of this outsider artist, resulting in an engaging, rewarding portrait--a perfect midpoint between The Parrots of Telegraph Hill and Crumb. A Man Named Pearl also includes a bonus cd of the jazzy soundtrack by composer Fred Story, as well as a follow-up interview with Fryar and co-director Scott Galloway. --Bret Fetzer
Balanced gracefully on a ladder, deftly carving with his electric hedge trimmer, Pearl Fryar has the elegance and strength of a dancer. He is, by contrast, a topiary sculptor, an artist whose medium is discarded or junk plant life and whose canvas is his magical and fantastical garden. A MAN NAMED PEARL chronicles the story of Pearl's dazzling garden as well as his extraordinary life, both of which serve as inspirations to his family, his community, and the thousands of visitors who come to experience Pearl's world each year. The film traces Pearl's journey from a small town sharecropper's son to an internationally-acclaimed artist, focusing in particular on his position as the celebrated cultural and spiritual icon of his impoverished town. Now 68, the soft-spoken Pearl has just one wish for all those who wander through his living art; they must leave feeling differently than when they arrived.
Stirring and profoundly uplifting, A MAN NAMED PEARL offers a captivating window into the life a man who turned obstacles into breathtakingly beautiful possibilities.
DVD Features: Bonus CD with the Original Film Score by Composer Fred Story; Pearl Fryar & Co-director Scott Galloway Update; Composer Interview; Filmmaker Bios
Q&A with Pearl Fryar
What was your first thought when you were approached about making the film?
I didn't really want to do it - I wasn't sure my story was long enough or interesting enough to make a whole movie about me, that they couldn't get enough material to make it - they had to come ask me twice to do this and then I wasn't sure they could raise the money to film it - but it all worked out and I am happy they did it. I'm happy that other people wanted to hear my story and see my garden.
How has the film changed your life and your garden?
I've had more visitors to the garden than I ever expected - some days I don't even make it into the house for meals because so many people are stopping by - the film has given the garden national attention - I've had visitors from all 50 states and many from Europe. The exposure from the film has been unbelievable - you know I've never advertised the garden, never put up signs, but people keep coming. The movie came along at the right time - the attention and publicity has changed my community - it has brought people together and my neighbors are proud of what we've done here in Bishopville. It just goes to show you that when things are done in a positive way, they can have a positive effect on others. The other thing the film has done for the garden is the idea of trying to save it - I'm going to be 70 years old and I was beginning to think I couldn't keep it all up - it's not an easy garden to maintain - my Friends group and the Garden Conservancy have helped me to get help in the garden - and a cherry picker too - so now I can spend more time talking to visitors about the reasons I created the garden in the first place - to inspire others to find their creativity and to work hard at it - to make a difference.
What do you spend most of your time doing in the garden this time of year? Is it a busy time for visitors?
Like I said, I'm doing more tours and talking these days than I am trimming and pruning! I bet there's been a 90% increase in visitors as a result of the film being in the theatres those 5 months and now on DVD and television. The Waffle House has been busier than ever too - and so have other businesses in the area. The film has been good for Bishopville.
Do a lot of people come to you with gardening advice?
People ask me how I did certain things - like my exposed trunks and the fishbone technique. I can't really give advice because I broke all the rules - I didn't know what the rules were when I first got started, but I've always been creative and I can work with my hands - I'm pretty good at figuring things out - like my fountains and my junk art - I just have an idea and I work at it - it takes a lot of patience too - I guess that would be my advice to people who see the film and visit the garden - be patient and work at something until you figure it out - you don't have to do things by the book - but you do have to believe in your own abilities - and you need help from your friends.
What's your advice to someone with no experience in gardening who wants to give it a try?
Do it for yourself, not for your neighbors - garden for yourself. A garden should represent you - your personality and should be different from others. Even if you can afford to have someone create and take care of your garden, save a corner just for you - for what you want to do, to express yourself and your feelings - even if it is junk art. My advice is to create a garden with a feeling - with a purpose - that when someone visits your garden they walk away with a feeling - they may admire what you've done, but they can't walk away and copy it - no one can do exactly what you can do.
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