This is my first review of a non edible product. Why? Because by pure chance I happened to watch something on Netflix that revolves around coffee and enjoyed it enough to decide to share my views on it on this blog.
While looking for stuff to download and watch off line while on holiday in Italy, I was searching for Italian language films. You know when Netflix recommends things?
That’s a clever function and there it popped up in my recs, Coffee for all, a documentary about the Neapolitan tradition of suspended coffee, ‘Caffe’ sospeso’ directed by Fulvio Iannucci and Roly Santos
In the period after WWII, Napoli was very poor: the city had massively suffered due to German occupation and allied bombing and poverty was rife. Those who could afford a coffee, often paid for two but only drank one, leaving one cup ‘suspended’ and available to someone in need. Based on the barista’s judgement, this coffee would then be offered to someone that really needed.
Caffè Sospeso, a curious journey from Naples to Buenos Aires to New York that detours into a reflection on the cultural tradition involved in having coffee in different places around the world.
Having coffee has become a social event. It’s an enjoyable drink that brings people together. The suspended coffee tradition had fallen to the wayside, but now, a group of cafés in Naples is starting it up again. The documentary covers such tradition as well as other interesting, quirky, coffee related stories
In Buenos Aires and New York as well as Napoli coffee becomes a way of transmitting warmth and energy among human beings. Or better yet, a hug.
I have never been to Buenos Aires, but I hear it’s a beautiful city and in some ways, quite ‘Italian’. Here the filming revolves around a writer who spends most of his time writing in a cafe, of course (sadly, he passed away during filming).
The bar tender is also part of the story, and during the day he’s a passionate coffee maker, while at night he performs in a drag show. Surprising, a little, and fascinating, although the city itself is more of a backdrop, and apart from some tango music, the stories could be set anywhere.
Of course, I love New York so this segment was good to watch. It follows the story of Italian American Elisabeth Cardiello, whose father patented an original coffee brewing pot, called the Unimatic, made in Italy but sold in the USA.
When her dad passed away, former banker Elisabeth found a warehouse full of Unimatics and decided to set up her own business selling them as numbered, unique pieces to share the love of coffee she inherited from her dad.
While I found her stance on life a little bit annoying at times (a little too positive, grumpy old me), I still loved her story, and that of her dad who emigrated to New York from San Pietro al Tanagro (Campania) and became a wealthy man with his own initiative and creativity.
The result is that I now want to buy a Unimatic! It looks fantastic.
Well then, of course, I got emotional watching my home town, its graffiti clad, sometimes derelict street views of the old town, the new striking Metropolitana station, early morning sights around a city that is my birthplace.
Here the stories are slightly more in depth, or perhaps is my perception as I am a little more involved with the place. The film covers a social enterprise which helps youngsters off the streets and out of prison and teaches them jobs: barista, pizzaiolo.
One of these guys becomes Napoli’s protagonist: young Giancarlo, originally from Romania, has been picked up by the charity and trained as a barista, due to his good nature and trustworthy attitude (with a twist at the end). He loves coffee and, much like the lives of the other protagonists, coffee has had a profound effect on his own life.
While his claim of being arrested for something he did not commit sounds kind of dodgy, viewers warms to his honesty, his youth, his passion to do better in life for the sake of his newborn daughter.
Napoli is the beautiful, sometimes conflictual, background for a cup of coffee: a bright, packed university classroom where a professor discusses the sociological aspects of ‘having a coffee’, to the proud and a little stuffy baristas of historic cafe’ Gambrinus who taught Papa Francesco how to drink one properly.
I really enjoyed watching Coffee for All. It is beautifully shot, with sensitivity and care for the individual stories. It pauses often to let the story sink in, and coffee is an aroma that permeates each strand, each frame. Unassuming, it has a powerful message of how societies revolve and evolve around the ritual of a cup of coffee.
Highly recommended, slightly hidden gem.