My name is James Kozar and I am a commercial video director with a focus on documentary storytelling in both my work and personal projects.
Ray & The Agave is a 10 minute short documentary filmed entirely on location at the Garfield Park Conservatory in 2019. The film follows the once-in-a-lifetime bloom of the Agave americana from the perspective of its caretaker, Ray Jorgensen. While the spectacular bloom was widely celebrated by Chicagoans, it also signaled the end of its life cycle, and Ray knew their time together would be coming to an end.
Ray & the Agave
At the Garfield Park Conservatory on Chicago's westside, a rare agave blooms, and the man who has cared for the plant for decades must come to terms with its imminent death and his own grief and loss.
The famed Agave americana lived in the Desert House collection for an estimated 60-80 years before suddenly blooming in 2019. Anticipation built throughout that year as it grew to unprecedented heights, fostering curiosity, fascination, and inspiration and creating an opportunity for people to connect with a plant that grew to a remarkable size outside of its native habitat. The Agave brought communities together in a shared appreciation of the power and mystery of nature, all within the confines of one of the oldest and most renowned conservatories in the country, right here in Chicago.
Ray & The Agave was filmed exclusively at Garfield Park Conservatory and follows the story of Chicago resident and Park District employee Ray Jorgensen as a plant under his care begins a sudden and spectacular bloom.
This film documents one of the many spectacles of nature that have happened at the Garfield Park Conservatory over its 100+ year history. Learn more about this iconic Chicago Park District location and plan your free visit at garfieldconservatory.org.
To see more of James Kozar's work, check out his company Apparatus Cinema.
Note: Agave’s POV It felt like a dream. Bathed in sunlight. Nourished by the careful, loving hands of two eager warm hearts. Twenty years can’t have passed so sudden and twenty lifetimes wouldn’t be enough to share with kindred hearts so dear. I remember my first day in the house, reminiscent of my life in the desert but confined to stone and glass and metal. Folded in tight to sisters and cousins, so familiar but unfamiliar to me. The earth around and beneath was shallower than home and I began to feel constricted, like the breath I knew in open air was gone forever, like all the breaths around were competing for the same pockets and as I felt a waning, a sound flowed in and filled the air and opened the closeness to relief. I don’t know how but, he knew what I needed, what we needed and everyday since I await eagerly for those sounds, for that music to lift me. Higher and higher I rose, the sun and sky beckoning to me. And bet you I would’ve expanded wider and wider, if it were not for my sisters and cousins so close to me, who once witnessing the expanse of my reach, supported the climb. His hands helped as well. The farther up I stretched, the more he would behold me. Speak to me in praise of what appeared to him to be a concerted effort yet merely my nature. He would tend to my pencas with such regard, it made me bloom even more. Those gentle touches built to trust and trust came easy in those days. Waves of them would come to be in my presence. To share awe and find joy in my growth and it felt glorious to absorb it all. And then the mood changed. As the waves continued their flow and pause and flow and pause, a sadness seeped in. All those gleeful cooings turned to woeful goodbyes, and I know goodbyes. Those days twenty years ago when I left home were no longer in the past… Though they shattered that glass to make way for my rise, it was only preparation for another departure. The tender touches turned hesitant. The morning sound turned mournful. And the shared trust felt ominous and filled with guilt. And then they came… Racket and sharpness. The sting of the metal so very close to my heart forced shudders up my stalk. And though they took their time – an attempt and care and consideration – I couldn’t help but wonder “why?” at it all. And so I took in all the high fresh air I could and held for as long as possible to hold the memory of this height, of this place. I felt the kindred hearts wince and buckle and break – and I knew they would remember me always. Now, small again and in my new home I wonder at the expanse of my next form. Will I be wide? will be tall again? Will I grow deep? Whatever may come, I like the dream.
Joyy Norris is a Chicago born and reared freelance creative and writer. Her work is significantly influenced by her identity as a Black American woman invested in discovering solutions to the issues that plague society through art, conversation and imagination. She finds value in these pursuits through the dynamic and effective forms of documentary film and podcasting. Producing stories on heritage, personal enrichment and just chatting it up through an agency-driven lens, defines her work in media.