Cinema Review: A Film About Coffee | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Sunday, April 5th, 2020  

A Film About Coffee

Studio: Virgil Films
Directed by Brandon Loper

Apr 04, 2016 Web Exclusive
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Ahh coffee, the lifeblood of night owls everywhere forced to wake far earlier than what fairness would dictate. This is not a film about history. It’s not a film that dives deeply into the methods used to transport coffee from the tree to the cup. It doesn’t dive deeply into anything, really. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It, at least, isn’t a deal breaker. What A Film About Coffee is, is a snapshot of coffee culture. It’s just over an hour of coffee people talking about the ubiquity and transcendental nature of a good cup of coffee. To those who do not enjoy the beverage – nectar of the gods, it is – the obsession with the aroma and ambiance surrounding cafés might come across as elitist or unfathomable. That’s okay. This movie is not for them. It doesn’t even try to bring in that audience.

But, it’s also not really going to perk up hardcore coffee aficionados, either. It doesn’t have enough heft or depth to satisfy a stronger connection to the brew and the beans. What it works best as is a travelogue. The film jumps from the Pacific Northwest – birthplace of Starbucks – to Rwanda to Honduras to Japan. Its brevity is slightly to its disadvantage because these places hardly feel lived in, but the photography captured in these moments is transfixing. When visiting a café in Japan, open for 30 years – now closed, sadly – Loper allows the camera to sit still as the owner, Katsuji Daibo, prepares a cup of coffee. There are cuts, but it resists flashiness, allowing the method of the subject to tell the story. Voiceover briefly interjects to describe a personal experience of being a patron, and how he selects cups for customers. It’s a sublime moment in a film that otherwise feels a bit too breezy.

It could be a social justice film, but it only briefly touches on the difficulties farmers face in making enough money to justify their livelihoods. Instead, A Film About Coffee features a few specialty coffee companies and the farmers who supply them. There’s very little urgency, but that plays out as a relief. Instead of being another in a long line of ACT NOW style documentaries, this is a quick look into the lives of these people who love coffee seemingly above all else. Coffee enthusiasts will get it.

A Film About Coffee suffers because of its aimlessness, but not too badly. It won’t likely be a lasting presence, but it’s a pleasant, simple and brief diversion.

Author rating: 6/10

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