Miami Gardens filmmaker defends ‘Murder Gardens’ movie title

‘It’s all about perception,’ Mark Samuels, raised in Miami Gardens, says of his new film

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – There is gun violence, crime and drug activity depicted in a new movie about life on the streets of Miami Gardens.

The storyline is fictional, but it's very real for the filmmaker behind the project.

Mark Samuels is the director of "Murder Gardens." He was raised and still lives in the city.

Samuels said the story is based on actual stories of people he knows.

"The inspiration was really to kind of change the narrative in Miami Gardens," Samuels said in an exclusive interview with Local 10 News.

Samuels said his hometown is a beautiful city and great place for tourists to visit.

But the controversy surrounds the movie's title, a direct reference to the number of homicides in the city through the years.

'Murder Gardens' film title
'Murder Gardens' film title (Courtesy of "Murder Gardens")

"It has been a lot of murder going on, but it's everywhere," Miami Gardens resident LaQuricia Terry said.

But another resident, Clinton Carter, said the title doesn't bother him.

"It's just that we need to know the truth about what's happening in Miami Gardens," Carter said.

Another resident, Crystal Vargas, said it's "kind of what goes on around here." But, she said, it doesn't have to be that way.

"As a community, we can change and try to highlight the positive," Vargas said.

Samuels said his film does highlight some positive aspects of the city, including the importance of family. Make no mistake about it -- Samuels still loves the city he calls home.

“It’s up to us to control what our city is and what it will become and what the future is for the kids (who) are growing up in that area,” Samuels said.

As for those who might be apprehensive about the title, Samuels suggests that they watch the movie first before forming an opinion.

“Realize that even in a negative depiction of something, something positive can come from that,” he said. “It’s all about perception.”

The city released the following statement in response to the movie's title:

“Unfortunate but not unexpected. Black communities around the country will generally be identified by their most negative occurrence or attribute, in doing so, an entire extraordinary group of people are defined by an exceedingly small amount of wrongdoers; and often the people telling the stories are black people operating behind the thin vail of art or journalism or authenticity. Art is not singularly focused on the negative. Real journalism doesn’t only cover bad happenings. Authenticity captures all that is real, not just the sensational or violent. If the story were to be written honestly it would be education in the Gardens. There are no more 'F' schools in the city. It could be development in the Gardens. Businesses are opening and buildings are going up at a record pace. It would be professionals in the Gardens. Miami Gardens is home to a large number of black professionals. It would be homeownership in the Gardens. The homeownership rate in Miami Gardens is 64.6%. The Miami-Dade County rate is 51% and the country’s is 63.9%. The story would be life in the Gardens, but that title wouldn’t sell movies.”

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