Produced by espresso giant Illy, the documentary "A Small Section of the World" is straight-up corporate propaganda. But its uplifting, powerful, well-meaning message might be enough to win over even some skeptics.
The film centers on the Asociación de Mujeres Organizadas de Biolley, an organization of female coffee producers in Costa Rica and an Illy supplier. With their husbands and sons uprooted to the Costa Rican capital of San José or the United States to seek work, the women of the Biolley region banded together and brewed up their own enterprise.
Even though their ingenuous enthusiasm converted apprehensive men into supporters, the women still lacked the know-how to turn out a decent product. In fact, they generated no income for two years. They pitched their roasted beans to Heredia-based exporter Grace Mena, who ended up training them partly because she herself had found success against the odds in a male-dominated industry. Since then, they have transformed the region and sent the next generation to college to study business administration.
The inspirational true story is primed for dramatization as a classic feel-good movie à la "Calendar Girls" or "Made in Dagenham." Illy portrays itself as a responsible corporate citizen, as expected, but the film does indeed champion fair commodity prices and sustainability for the growers. The coffee producers later suffered a major setback when they attempted to branch out to tourism and hospitality, which the film leaves unresolved.
"A Small Section of the World."
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 2 minutes.
Playing: ArcLight, Hollywood.