The Coffee Man
Prod. Roland Fraval, Dir. Jeff Hann
The Coffee Man is a beautifully crafted classic documentary. The production values are impeccable and the narrative well balanced in a three act structure.
The opening scenes felt like this might be a hipster, self-aware, too cool for school, parody of the role of coffee in contemporary society. Then I started to get to know the protagonist.
Sasa Sestic is the Coffee Man. Once I got over my parody suspicions I started to appreciate the complexity of the film. I wasn’t sure if I was watching the tale of a visionary who saw the path ahead and bravely strode along it or a bastard who let his whimsical obsession with coffee take over his life and the lives of all those around him.
When Sasa’s wife recalls the phone call during which he reveals he has just bought a coffee farm in South America we feel her disbelief and distress. This is a man who is obsessed with coffee and pity to anything that gets between him and his obsession.
Yet, I stuck with him. I got to know Sasa and his crew.
Sasa has a story that he tells in his competition spiel. It’s about the connection between the coffee producer and the coffee drinker. Sasa has spent his coffee career searching for the perfect cup by going to the source and learning as much as he can about the life cycle of a coffee bean. I learned a heap of interesting information about where my daily coffee comes from. Sasa’s daughter is an engaging and informative narrator for the infographic sections of the film.
The great strength of the film is that it mirrors the story that Sasa tells about that fundamental connection. The documentary bridges the gap between the audience and Sasa. It really gets inside his head and his heart and by the time the credits roll I have commiserated with Sasa’s failures and celebrated his triumphs.
My only criticism of the documentary is that occasionally the film strays into melodrama as the camera lingers on close-ups of Sasa having an internal moment.
Kudos to the producer Roland Fraval and director Jeff Hann and to the whole Coffee Man team for putting together a fascinating character study that illuminates the secrets of the coffee cup.
The Coffee Man is screening at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival. For the programme and tickets see...