Gardening With Soul

Dir: Jess Feast (New Zealand, 2013)


Gardening with Soul is a feature length documentary following a year in the garden with 90-year-old Sister Loyola Galvin. Sister Loyola's optimism is infectious and it's fed every day by her love of gardening. Themes of faith, aging and compassion sit alongside the practicalities of community life, issues within the Catholic Church and the importance of good compost in this intimate, funny and moving portrait of a woman approaching the end of her life.

The film delighted audiences across the country during its national release in 2014, proving itself to be 'the little film that could.'

“Sister Loyola is one of the liveliest nonagenarians you could ever meet.

As the main gardener at the Home of Compassion in Island Bay, Wellington, her daily tasks include heavy lifting alongside vigorous spade and wheelbarrow work, which she sometimes performs on crutches. Loyola and the other Sisters of Compassion follow the vision of Mother Aubert to 'meet the needs of the oppressed and powerless in their communities'.

Filmmaker Jess Feast (Cowboys and Communists) has been following Sister Loyola over the last year, charting her journey through the seasons which included her 90th birthday. Through her garden, we begin to understand Loyola's commitment to nurture all living things, especially those which 'don't get a good start'. From her early work as a nurse with sick or stillborn babies, to her role as a nun raising children with disabilities, we see Loyola's incredible energy and faith in her God to carry her through the difficult times.

The lively, beautifully shot documentary (edited by Annie Collins) is filmed almost entirely in this small community on the southern coast of Wellington. With music by local musician David Long, and full of the sea- and garden-scapes that have informed Loyola's life, Gardening with Soul uncovers a local legend and her community for the wider world. It is a conceptual triumph for Feast. Any belief we might harbour that becoming a nun is avoiding the real world is turned firmly on its head as we witness this extraordinary soul steer a sharp course through all weathers, trying to shine love on everything she sees.”

- Jo Randerson, New Zealand International Film Festival





Director: Jess Feast

Year: 2013

Language: English

Run Time: 100 min

Rating: G

“★★★★ Sister Loyola is an extraordinary character with quite the life story (and world views) to share... a sharp, endearing and insightful raconteur.”

- Leigh Paatsch, Herald Sun

“What a film!... I’ve never seen anything so warm-hearted or inspiring in my life... You will not have a better time at the cinema this year.”

- Graeme Tuckett, Radio NZ National

“A superbly understated film that packs an enormous emotional punch... it’s difficult not to be touched by Sister Loyola’s infectious enthusiasm.”

- Catherine Brown, Film Ink Magazine

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