Directed by Morgan Elliott, and set in Potsdam, New York, the film tells the story of what began as a denied rezoning bid that would have allowed Hank Robar to sell his private property to Dunkin Donuts. When the Village board denied Robar’s rezoning request, the 82-year-old landlord erected a plot of flower-filled toilets on his main street property where the Dunkin Donuts would have been, and in-turn set off a string of events that would both amuse and frustrate the community for the next twenty years. Though it begins as an act of revenge, “Hank’s Potty Garden” soon grows into a local artistic phenomenon.
As tension between Robar and the Village builds, more toilet displays are erected, and local opinion diverges even further, resulting in years of back-and-forth debate which at times devolves into vandalism of the toilets and several court appearances aimed at removing the gardens. Forced to hire a lawyer and defend himself, Hank fires back with a legal request of his own: $7 million dollars in damages if the Village dares touch his toilets.
Seen through the eyes of Hank, local residents and the Village officials involved, this standoff between one man and his local government is an extremely serious, yet sometimes comical example of small town power struggles in this quirky tale of toilets, corruption and one man’s battle to uphold his first amendment and artistic rights, while begging the question “what constitutes art?”
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