Gardens of the Night
|Gardens of the Night|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Damian Harris|
|Written by||Damian Harris|
Jermaine "Scooter" Smith
|Music by||Craig Richey|
|Edited by||Michal Shemesh|
|Distributed by||City Lights Pictures
|Running time||110 minutes|
At the age of eight, in the fictional town of Wilmington, Pennsylvania, a girl named Leslie Whitehead (Ryan Simpkins) is kidnapped by Alex (Tom Arnold) and Frank (Kevin Zegers). Alex pretends to need help finding his dog, then he and Frank take her to school; while driving, Alex tells Leslie her dad is their boss, thus earning her trust. After school, Alex and Frank find her again; they lure her into their car with a story about her dad being in trouble. They then drug her and take her to their house. Alex tells her that her parents do not want her anymore. As proof, he provides the number to her "dad's cell phone," which in reality is a pay phone. After several unanswered calls, she eventually accepts his story.
She and another victim, a young boy named Donnie, are forced into prostitution and child pornography. However, Alex is also very protective and fatherly to them. Their clients include men in positions of authority, such as a court judge, and they are told that they are lucky to be with such good and honorable men. As a coping mechanism, Donnie and Leslie pretend they are in an imaginary world based on the stories of Mowgli and The Jungle Book. One day, Leslie goes to a convenience store, where it becomes apparent that her parents are looking for her because her picture is on milk cartons. Leslie doesn't see the cartons, thus preserving her notion that her parents don't want her. While Alex is paying for ice cream, the store owner's wife recognizes her as missing and calls the police. When the police show up at Alex and Frank's house, the two kidnappers hastily escape with the children.
About eight years later in San Diego, California, Leslie (Gillian Jacobs) and Donnie (Evan Ross) are living together on the streets, having been abandoned by Alex and Frank after getting too old for child prostitution and pornography. Leslie is prostituting herself while Donnie steals. As a way for her to be "independent" and get off the streets, a pimp named Cooper (Shiloh Fernandez) tries to convince Leslie to lure a twelve-year-old girl, Monica (Carlie Westerman), living at a shelter into prostitution. Meanwhile, Donnie has fallen in love with Leslie, but she is disappointed with his seeming lack of motivation to get off the streets. She decides to leave Donnie and goes to the shelter to "turn" the girl. When Donnie goes looking for Leslie, Cooper tells him she's left him. Devastated, Donnie leaves San Diego. At the last minute, Leslie decides to not turn Monica and returns her to the shelter. The counselor there (John Malkovich) discovers Leslie is a missing person and tells her that her parents have been looking for her all these years, which she finally realizes is true.
Leslie reunites with her parents and attempts to return home. However, she is too scarred and ashamed after all she's been through, and cannot remain in such a normal atmosphere. She leaves in the middle of the night and hitchhikes to an amusement park in Florida, where as children, she and Donnie said they would meet if they ever got separated. Donnie is shown hitchhiking to Florida as well.
|Ryan Simpkins||Young Leslie|
|Evan Ross||Young Donnie|
|Troy Rubtash||Motel John|
|Raynold Gideon||Judge Feeney|
|Cornelia Guest||Mrs. Feeney|
|Natalie May||Judge's Daughter|
|Landall Goolsby||Blackberry John|
|Shontea Saldana||Baby Loco|
|Max Van Ville||Surf|
|Kyle Gallner||Rat Boy|
|Jeff Swarthout||Gay John|
|Jeff Feringa||Booster Lady|
|Jim Cody Williams||Leslie's John|
|Raphael Sbarge||Mr. Witehead|
|Lisa Akey||Mrs. Whitehead|
|Gracie Sbarge||Gracie Whitehead|
|Ty Simpkins||Dylan Whitehead|
The film was then released in the UK and France in October 2008, and in November 2008 was given limited release in New York City. As of December, it has not yet had a nationwide release in the United States.
A review in The New York Times states, "Recovery time is recommended after seeing Gardens of the Night, a harrowing, obliquely told story of kidnapping and forced child prostitution that conjures a world entirely populated by predators and prey."
A review in the New York Observer calls the film "another newfangled kind of horror movie", going on to say, "It is hard to watch, but worth every sobering moment because of the things you learn about one of life’s most grueling subjects."
Gardens of the Night won the International Critics Jury award at the 2008 Deauville Festival of American Film.
He also won the "Coup de Coeur" of the International Competition and the CinéFemme Award in Mons's International Love Film Festival
The film won the 2008 Audience Award at the Lyon Film festival (Lyfe/ Hors-Ecran).
Prism Awards: Nominated: Best Feature Film (Mental Health)
- "2008 Program". Berlin International Film Festival.
- "Awards for Gardens of the Night". IMDB.
- "Gardens of the Night". Rotten Tomatoes.
- Stephen Holden (2008-11-07). "Predators and Young Prey in a World Gone Sinister". New York Times.
- Rex Reed (2008-11-04). "Mean Streets". The New York Observer.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzG-m-jtJfs. Missing or empty
- Ian Mundell (2008-09-14). "Deauville greets 'Visitor' with honors". Variety.
- Lyon Film festival (Lyfe/ Hors-Ecran).