J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Caffeinated: A Watery Brew

At least nobody uses the term “shade grown.” Yes, everybody in this film really loves their joe, but it is almost more for the social activism than the rich, kicky brew. They are all about micro-crops and fair trade in Hanh Nguyen & Vishal Solanki’s documentary Caffeinated (trailer here), which releases on VOD platforms today.

Frankly, this film could use an espresso shot. The most interesting part is the all-too brief history of coffee Nguyen & Solanki quickly dispense with. Than a parade of baristas and the stray corporate rep from Starbuck’s or Illy extoll the virtues of java. From there, it is off to the remote reaches of the globe that are suitable for coffee growing: tropical latitudes at high elevations.

One after another, we hear hipster roasters wax poetic about their “personal relationships” with independent regional growers. It is all very nice, but viewers could probably get more information from a green coffee brochure at Peet’s Coffee. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to see micro-enterprises like SOPPEXCCA, the Nicaraguan women’s specialty coffee coop, taste a little bit of success. Unfortunately, the bigger they get, the greater the risk the Ortega regime will nationalize it all away from them.

Somehow, Nguyen & Solanki locked their ode to joe without licensing Bob Dorough’s cover of “The Coffee Song (They’ve Got an Awful Lot of Coffee in Brazil)” or his original “Too Much Coffee Man.” There’s no accounting for taste. Still, they seem leave an awful lot of coffee cultural history by the wayside. One assumes a great deal of American coffee consumption was established during the Great Depression, when it would have been the cheapest thing you could order in a diner, to come in out of the cold, and was solidified by the “Coffee Achieving” 1980s, but the film never really delves into our national embrace of coffee.

In fact, it is rather ironic that Caffeinated celebrates efforts to make the everyman’s drink (hence the term “joe”) more expensive. Of course, there is always room for connoisseurship, especially for something as tasty as java. Unfortunately, the film does not inspire much coffee love. It is just too shallow and repetitive. Easily skippable, Caffeinated launches today (7/14) on iTunes.

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