For many years, your husband needed to die before you can own land as a woman. This had been the case for most women in Honduras and other parts of Latin America for generations. There were other ways for a woman to acquire property, but they required trudging through lots of red tape that men simply didn’t have to go through. But times are changing for the better: more women have taken on many male-dominated roles in the country, particularly in owning both lands and businesses. As a result of this cultural shift, women have recently begun to thrive within the farming industry all across Latin America, particularly in coffee production. This story (and more) is what “Women in Coffee: A Short Documentary” is all about.
The 12-minute documentary talks about the women behind the coffee-making division of Equal Exchange, a Massachusetts-based cooperative that distributes organic products produced by farmers from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. We follow five unique women involved in five phases of coffee production: the Farmer, the Buyer, the Quality Manager, the Roaster, and the Barista. Each one is interviewed in her own segment, which is introduced by a cutely drawn icon and title card.
We give this film 5 out of 5 stars.
The cinematography is excellent, making this picture a pleasure to watch. The shots flow well with one another. This is especially true in scenes shot at the coffee farms. Woven in between the interviews are beautiful B-roll shots of different scenes that serve to complete the picture: a farmer picking berries, coffee beans being poured into a machine, a villager playing a local instrument. They serve to highlight or expand the narrative.
There is no narrator spouting exposition during the entire film. I liked this. The only voices one would hear all come from the people being interviewed and from the background noise. It helped in keeping the narrative within the five main characters, and preserved the intimacy of their message. One can also feel themselves being drawn in by the ASMR-level ambient noise scattered all throughout the film: the crunching of leaves, the noisy sipping of a cup during tasting, the pouring of coffee beans into a container, the snap of a fruit being picked off a branch, and so on. Maybe put on some headphones if you have them.
Behind the technical mastery of “Women in Coffee’s” production lies a clear message: that women are thriving in the coffee industry, and it’s all thanks the the efforts of a generally progressive culture across the board. Groups like Equal Exchange have provided platforms for female farmers, buyers, managers, roasters, and baristas to take on leadership roles in a system traditionally dominated by men.
And that’s what “Women in Coffee” succeeds in promoting: female empowerment. In watching the film, you might be surprised to see a woman doing something that “only men do,” like driving a forklift, lifting, or operating a huge machine. It may come off as shocking to some, and that’s the point. In today’s evolving culture, the film can serve as a wake-up call to the men and a call-to-action for women. At the same time, the film also serves as a celebratory piece to those who have been fighting for women’s rights for such a long time. Finally, it can be an informative and inspiring way to learn about the role of women in today’s society — not just in coffee.
WATCH “Women In Coffee” HERE:
This review is part of “EQUALITY,” Part 5 of 6 in the 2020 Mini Coffee Film Fest. See the other part, “Gender In Coffee” here: