Barista, (2015), directed by Rock Baijanauth is a playful and endearing documentary that follows four contenders involved on a competitive coffee-brewing cycle. The film profiles five young baristas as they pursue a painstaking national barista title. Rock first introduces four competitors heading to the 2013 National Barista Championships taking place in Boston: Edie-Marie Abramowicz, Charlie Habegger, Truman Severson and Ryan Redden. Later in the film, Charles Babinski is introduced to become the fifth character. He is a simultaneously low-key contender from Los Angeles who his compatriots use tones of hushed awe to describe him. He has a pair of flagship coffee shops that he boasts about and an endorsement by Krups despite him having not won a first position title in national competitions.
The barista competition involves an event where each challenger gets 15 minutes to prepare three types of beverages for a panel of judges. These drinks include one cappuccino, one espresso and one drink of choosing by each competitor. The preparation of these competitors is different. Abramowicz go through psychology notes to help her in emerging top in the element of presentation while Severson and Redden add chips on their "specialty" beverage of their choice as they experiment using liquid nitrogen and a coffee distillery style referred to as moonshine.
What We Like about the Documentary
Rock Baijanauth presents the characters as passionate, quirky and loveable and uses them to take the viewers into the unimaginable tour of world coffee experiencing the dedication of the baristas in the competition. The baristas are very serious about this beverage, and their passion can be seen and felt throughout the film. Rock Baijanauth has managed to capture the attention of the viewers beyond the drink, shining a light of the unique world to them which few knew less of its existence. The film is also energetic and colourful in its making while the director is also very respectful and sincere to the subjects.
The Not so Good
Although the baristas justify the competition and the professionals, some of them acknowledge and criticize the ridiculousness of this enterprise. The movie also puts off viewers who do not love bland indie music and corny sequences which seem adolescent-styled. Coffee usually makes me stay awake for long but watching these music parts that made the film looks like an extended advertisement is the only moment I felt like sleeping even with coffee being involved. The baristas also espouse fussy techniques, and the judges’ acts of stooping down in unison to observe the competitors tap down on the ground is a little bit weird.
The passion of the baristas in making coffee and the extent they are willing to go in perfecting the art and win the competition is admirable. The characters are also lovable, and their dedication makes the viewer wants more and more. Even though these characters are commonly passionate in what they do, Rock has managed to bring them out as very different and unique. This can be seen where they use different approaches in perfecting their art of the speciality drink. The suspense created by the scenes and the viewer’s expectancy for more from the character’s techniques keeps the film more interesting.