City of Trees

Feature-length film. A complex tale of social justice, urban forestry and community politics. Broadcast on the PBS series America ReFramed, produced in association with Kartemquin Films and Magic Labs Media.

Since 1990, nonprofit Washington Parks & People has tried to reduce poverty and violence in Washington, D.C. neighborhoods by improving parks. At the height of the recession, the organization received a stimulus grant to create a "green" job-training program in communities hardest hit. They had two years to help unemployed people find jobs and care for parks in their neighborhoods.

Steve Coleman, a grassroots environmental activist who directs the organization, must hire 150 unemployed residents to plant several thousand trees and provide training in the soft skills required to get a job. For Charles Holcomb, the paycheck offers a chance to give his newborn daughter the life he never had. For Michael Samuels, the job training is a first step forward after a drug conviction marred his employment record. For James Magruder, the program offers a chance to prove that his neighborhood roots position him as an unsung leader. 

What sounds like a simple goal — putting people back to work by planting trees — becomes complicated by community tensions and a fast-approaching deadline before the grant money runs out. Filmed in an unflinching and compelling verité approach over the course of more than two years, CITY OF TREES thrusts viewers into the inspiring but messy world of job training and the paradoxes changemakers face in urban communities everyday.

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Director: Brandon Kramer
Producer: Lance Kramer
Editor: Edwin Martinez
Cinematographers: Brandon Kramer, Ellie Walton
Original Music: Brian Satz, Ethan White
Consulting Producers: Katy Chevigny, Justine Nagan
Editorial Consultants: Gordon Quinn, Carol Dysinger, Matt Lauterbach
Post-Production Sound: Liz Fausak
Colorist: Joe Malina
Assistant Editors: Sara Fusco, Jennifer Quintana
Music Supervisor: Eric Rigaud
Titles and Graphics: Dizzy Giant
Final Mastering and Trailer: Wheelhouse Creative
Impact Producer: Angelica Das
Outreach Coordinator: Lisa Allen
Featuring: Charles Holcomb, Michael Samuels, Steve Coleman, James Magruder, Brian Rodgers, Karen Loeschner


World Premiere: American Conservation Film Festival (audience choice award) - October 25, 2015
DC Premiere: Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital - March 16 + 23, 2016
St. Louis International Film Festival (Human Rights Spotlight) - November 2015
Annapolis Film Festival - April 2016
Yale Environmental Film Festival - April 2016
Princeton Environmental Film Festival - April 2016
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival - April 2016
FilmFest DC - April 2016
Workers Unite Film Festival — May 2016
Brooklyn Film Festival — June 2016
Woods Hole Film Festival — July 2016
Golden Door Film Festival — September 2016
Downtown LA Film Festival — September 2016
Chesapeake Film Festival — October 2016
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival — October 2016
FICMA Barcelona International Environmental Film Festival — November 2016


National Broadcast on April 19, 2016 and January 17, 2017 on America ReFramed (PBS/World Channel)

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