I’ve been an avid documentary film watcher for many years now. My favorite documentaries are obscure stories about everyday people doing extraordinary things. I always get excited to share these documentaries with friends but before I know it I forget the title. So in the spirit of archiving my findings I am creating a new category dedicated strictly to documentaries. Below is one of my most recent finds.
A Man Named Pearl tells the inspiring story of self-taught topiary artist Pearl Fryar, whose unlikely journey to national prominence began with a bigoted remark.
In 1976, Pearl took a job in a can factory in Bishopville, South Carolina. New to this rural southern town, he and his wife Metra looked at a house for sale in an all-white neighborhood. The Fryars real estate agent was notified by neighbors in the prospective neighborhood that a black family was not welcome. A homeowner voiced the collective concern: Black people dont keep up their yards.
Pearl was stung by the racial stereotype. But rather than become angry and embittered, it motivated him to prove that misguided man wrong. Pearl bought a house in a black neighborhood and began fashioning a garden that would attract positive attention. His goal was modest, but clear: to become the first African-American to win Bishopvilles Yard of the Month award.
Realizing he would have to do something spectacular to impress the Bishopville garden club, Pearl began cutting every bush and tree in his yard into unusual, abstract shapes. He didnt know it then, but he was creating a magical wonderland that would, in time, not only garner local recognition, but draw thousands of visitors from across the United States and around the world.
Now 67, Pearl has been featured in dozens of magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, as well as several television programs such as CBS Sunday Morning. The media interest that Pearl and his topiary garden generates helps steer much-needed tourist dollars into the declining town of Bishopville and Lee County, the poorest county in the state of South Carolina.
But the impact that Pearl and his art have had on his community is not just economic. Hes also had a profound spiritual influence. As Pearls minister, Rev. Jerome McCray, says of the garden: Its the one place in all of South Carolina that people can go, both black and white, and feel love.
Visitors who wander Pearls three-and-a-half-acre property quickly recognize that love is the gardens central theme. Meticulously etched into the ground in huge, flower-filled letters are three words: LOVE, PEACE & GOODWILL. These are the guiding principles by which Pearl lives his life and how hes been keeping up his yard for nearly thirty years.
A Man Named Pearl is a subtle and intriguing film that opens both hearts and minds. It offers an upbeat message that speaks to respect for both self and others, and shows what one person can achieve when he allows himself to share the full expression of his humanity.