Ironic story: right before I went to see this documentary, I sat on a State Street bench, catching up on my Gothic literature reading. I yawned, and some random man passing by me said, “You should get some coffee.” And it turns out that I did, in a sense.
“Caffeinated” is a documentary directed by Hanh Nguyen and L.A. Film School graduate Vishal Solanki. Originally conceived as a simple effort, the film’s blueprint spanned only four cities within the United States. However, the project expanded to include people from all around the world, from coffee growers in South America and Africa to European and American caffeine addicts.
The film takes focus on several subjects, but at the forefront are two groups: entrepreneurs who wish to profit off of coffee by starting their own businesses, and farmers who have difficulty making a decent profit off of their crop.
A fun and introspective look into coffee culture, the documentary relies heavily on interviews. Farmers and businessmen alike showed how coffee affects the lives of people, both socially and economically. An interesting choice by the directors was to not give the film any overlying narration, relying on the interviews to convey which direction the documentary was going to next.
However, the cuts between interviews did not transition seamlessly, and the sound editing was a bit rough. In a few scenes, white noise pervaded in the background and voiceovers from interviewees seemed to drop out into oblivion upon transitioning to a new location.
Even so, the interviews were funny and insightful. Coffeemakers showed numerous techniques for creating special blends and making sure their beans are up to high standards, and coffee servers shared their dreams of starting their own businesses.
Taking on a more serious edge, “Caffeinated” also puts heavy focus on the plights of farmers. Whether it’s politics, weather or decreased demand, coffee farmers often find themselves struggling to sell. The farmers are struggling, and their children don’t want to take over the farms. So, what will happen? This exposé kept the documentary in an educational realm.
“Caffeinated” is an entertaining documentary from Solanki and Nguyen, alternating from lighthearted to serious. Coffee enthusiasts/addicts will be severely interested.
Alex Wehrung has, ironically, never drank coffee in his life.