'A Small Section of the World': Film Review
Lesley Chilcott's documentary chronicles the success of a group of plucky female coffee growers in Costa Rica
Uncomfortably blurring the line between feel-good documentary and corporate shilling, Lesley Chilcott's documentary relates the story of a group of Costa Rican women who embarked on a risky coffee producing business in the mid '90s and wound up succeeding in what had previously been a male-dominated local industry. Produced by a media division of the Italian espresso-specializing company Illy, A Small Section of the World ably fulfills its mission of delivering its inspirational tale, but still seems mainly suitable for a corporate meeting.
When declining economic conditions forced the men of the remote Costa Rican farming village of Biolley to travel to the U.S. and that country's San Jose to seek employment, the women left behind banded together to form ASOMOBI (Asociacion de Mujeres Organizadas de Biolley, or the Association of Organized Women of Biolley), in an effort to revive the region's dormant coffee-growing practice.
Their efforts were hardly successful at first, as related by the film's other principal subject, Grace Mena, who was one of the country's first female coffee exporters. She rejected the women's product at first, severely critical of its lack of quality. But she was inspired to help them improve their methods, with her expertise proving crucial to their efforts.
Despite such setbacks as a devastating fire that wiped out their plantation, the women persevered and eventually found success. They also found a major buyer in the form of—you guessed it —Illy, and the footage of their trip to a company meeting in Italy produces one of the film's happier moments.
Featuring interviews with several of the women involved in the business, such as Hortencia, described as the "Queen of the Roaster" for her expertise with the machinery, the film also boasts splendid visuals. Besides gorgeous footage of the naturally scenic environs of Costa Rica, it includes enough food-porn-style shots of coffee beans to spark greater cappuccino sales at the theater.
Featuring a closing credits anthem co-written and performed by Alanis Morissette, A Small Section of the World knows well enough not to wear out its welcome with its brief, 62-minute running time.
Production: Greenlight Media & Marketing
Director: Lesley Chilcott
Producers: Josh Lieberman, Maresa Wickham, Lesley Chilcott
Executive producers: Dominic Sandifer, Nick Davidge, Paolo Bonsignore
Director of photography: Logan Schneider
Editor: Chris Catanach
Composer: Greg Kuehn
No rating, 62 min.