New Coffee Film, “Caffeinated”: A Beautiful, Intellectual Journey to the Heart of Our Industry

Vishal and Hanh interviewing Raul Perez at Finca La Soledad, Huehuetenango, Guatemala.

I’ve always loved the lilt in Geoff Watts’ voice. I think it comes from the slight smile he’s always wearing, even as he speaks, as if he can’t contain his excitement about what he’s telling you, which inevitably has something to do with the love of his life: coffee. So discovering that Intelligentisa Coffee’s famous green buyer was one of the primary authorities relied upon by filmmakers Hanh Nguyen and Vishal Solanki in the development of Caffeinated, their gorgeous film about the specialty-coffee industry which is set to debut at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on January 27, made the film all the more interesting to watch.

The documentary "Caffeinated" will premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in California at the end of January.
The documentary “Caffeinated” will premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in California at the end of January. And just announced: “Caffeinated” will also screen during the 2015 SCAA Show in Seattle!

Here at Barista Magazine’s office, Publisher Kenneth Olson and I recently ditched our desks  and spent an afternoon watching Vishal and Hanh’s film, which was at that time still being edited. We were thrilled to see that Hanh and Vishal ”who have been interviewing key members of the specialty-coffee industry, traveling to major coffee conferences and to producing countries, and exploring the vibrant and ever-changing landscapes of our gourmet industry’s most influential U.S. cities since 2011 ”have succeeded in a tremendous way. Caffeinated is luscious and exhilarating to watch. It’s  as astute as it is inquisitive; Hanh and Vishal film, direct, and edit with a subtle, quiet, and almost tender hand. Over the course of the four years they’ve been working on this project, they, like Geoff, have fallen in love.

Hanh Nguyen, Geoff Watts, and Vishal Solanki with Henio Perez at Finca La Soledad, Huehuetenango, Guatemala.
Hanh Nguyen, Geoff Watts, and Vishal Solanki with Henio Perez at Finca La Soledad, Huehuetenango, Guatemala.

One can’t help compare Caffeinated to the other big screen coffee hit of late, A Film About Coffee by Brandon Loper. And I’m delighted to say, they’re both endlessly enjoyable, and successful in their varied pursuits. Hanh and Vishal are actively entering Caffeinated in the film festival circuit, while Brandon released his picture to a larger audience from the get-go.

Vishal and Hanh interviewing Raul Perez at Finca La Soledad, Huehuetenango, Guatemala.
Vishal and Hanh interviewing Raul Perez at Finca La Soledad, Huehuetenango, Guatemala.

Vishal has promised to tell us as soon as he has confirmed dates for other film festival screenings, so stay tuned to Barista Magazine’s social media for that. In the meantime, to get you as excited as I am about Caffeinated, I wanted to share a conversation I had recently with Vishal and Hanh.

Hanh helps Vishal swap lenses at Finca La Soledad with Jose and Raul Perez, Huehuetenango, Guatemala.
Hanh helps Vishal swap lenses at Finca La Soledad with Jose and Raul Perez, Huehuetenango, Guatemala.

Sarah: When did you begin working on this film and what did you hope to accomplish?

Hanh:  I began working on this film in February of 2011 working as a barista at CoffeeBar LA. I knew if I wanted to make a documentary about coffee, I would have to immerse myself in it. At first, I didn’t know what I wanted to accomplish, I just knew I wanted the experience. The more I learn about coffee, the more I want to learn. This film has been my life for the past 4 years, and through the process, the story revealed itself. This experience has made me personally more aware of the foods I consume everyday.

Vishal:  We began working on the film 4 years ago. In the beginning we had titled the movie Coffee Culture  because we were more interested in the coffee scene of different cities of America, such as Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. Both Hanh and I were working our day jobs, and doing freelance film gigs, but we had down time and we thought it would be something which will take a year or two, to visit those cities and make a film about the coffee culture of America. That was our initial hope, but then like most documentaries, you learn on the way, how much you did not know about your subjects, and certain elements resonate more than other ones, and then you end up diverting and rethinking. From four to five cities as we had initially hoped, the movie ended up being shot in many countries. We were showed the way by the coffee industry, that coffee is not a story about America, or its few cities. We realized how large its social and cultural landscape was, and then with the support we got from the coffee industry, we found the process from farming to consuming fascinating, and our goal changed to linking the consumer and the farmer, by letting the consumers know where their coffee comes from, and how much effort goes into making the perfect cup.

 Vishal and Hanh(Behind Mauricio Rosales with camera) at Finca La Maravilla, Guatemala.
Vishal and Hanh(Behind Mauricio Rosales with camera) at Finca La Maravilla, Guatemala.

Sarah: How would you describe Caffeinated in one or two sentences?

Hanh and Vishal:  Caffeinated tells the story of coffee through the perspectives of people who have dedicated their lives to it. At every step of the process, it’s the hands that planted the seed, that roasted the beans, that crafted the drink that makes every cup of coffee a story worth telling.

Sarah:  What does Caffeinated  accomplish that no other coffee documentaries thus far have done?

Hanh and Vishal: The title is ironic ”this film does not deal with caffeine or any of its effects in depth. This film tells a story of coffee through people whose lives are driven by coffee. When filming, we were invited into homes and welcomed along journeys that gave us a new perspective on how one small seed can tie so many cultures together. We wanted to share that feeling with the viewer, of being involved and being part of the process, of understanding the many layers of people that are responsible for making the joyous experience of coffee possible and what drives their passion.

 

Caffeinated will premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which  takes place January 27 through February 7. Stay tuned to the official website for details about Caffeinated screenings. Email justine@sbfilmfestival.org for tickets.

Stay tuned to Caffeinated’s Facebook page for updates. And follow Caffeinated on Twitter at @thecoffeemovie.

About Sarah 918 Articles
Sarah Allen (she/her) is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.