A documentary titled "Jens Jensen The Living Green" by Viva Lundin Productions, Chicago, will have its world premiere Saturday, July 20, at the Figge Art Museum auditorium in Davenport.
The debut is part of the German American Heritage Center's Land and Water exhibit, but it is being held at the Figge because it has more space and comfy seats. Showing at 1:30 p.m. — before the Jensen film — will be "Lost Landscape: the Tallgrass Prairie." Both films are about 60 minutes long.
The Jensen film was done for the Public Broadcasting Service, or PBS.
The documentary by Carey Lundin and Mark Frazel tells Jensen's life story and accomplishments, but its focus is his belief that "people need daily access to the living green or they will shrivel up and die," Lundin said.
In Chicago, as in most crowded urban areas, regular people had little to no access to nature in Jensen's lifetime. This was a detriment to their spirit and, by extension, to their neighborhoods and society as a whole.
Jensen wanted to make parks accessible. He equated this with democracy, with being American, Lundin said.
"He thought America should not emulate Europe," she said. "He thought we should have our own identity, an American identity, an American aesthetic."
The film is full of beautiful images and tells a compelling story as there were times in Jensen's life when he was battling corruption in Chicago, Lundin explained.
He also was internally conflicted between his belief that there should be free, beautiful spaces for the public and the fact that he made money by designing private landscapes for the very wealthy.
"I think people are really going to enjoy the story," Lundin said. "Once people find out how philosophical a city park can be, they will flip for him."