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A Film About Coffee

Telling the story of the specialty trade, from farmers to baristas

by CH Contributor in Food + Drink on 22 July 2014

Coffee, Independent Films, Coffee Beans, Fair Trade, Farmers, Food + Drink

by Chérmelle D. Edwards

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By profession he’s a commercial photographer, but by passion he's a filmmaker. Brandon Loper's "A Film About Coffee" is a visual love letter about the journey of specialty coffee—from the farmers who produce it to the people who consume it. Currently, Loper is screening the film independently, city-by-city (as far as New Zealand) through the boutique San Francisco-based production company, Avocados and Coconuts. The title is direct, however with so many chapters in coffee’s journey, Loper’s documentation of farmers in countries such as Honduras and Rwanda details just how beautifully convoluted the specialty coffee trade is.

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The title, "A Film About Coffee" is extremely direct. How did you settle on it?

I was a coffee consumer and somewhat educated about it, but I didn’t realize the nuances of the industry. I put a lot of pressure on myself to name this film, because I knew that I landed on something incredible. We needed to put up the trailer and the title was there, it was a film about coffee. It makes people ask a second question, it's a conversation starter.

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What did you know about coffee before the film? And, what was it that made you take this journey?

I’m from Alabama. My relationship with coffee started in college with my girlfriend. She used to drink coffee with hazelnut creamer. I started because of her, with Folgers and I had OJ and donuts with it to get it down—that was my entryway. Then, one of my friends and I were at a truck stop one night and he said, "Just drink it black." And, I haven’t had it any other way since. Eventually, I moved to San Francisco and I discovered the Blue Bottle Kiosk. I went there and became hooked and later learned that I was drinking a natural coffee—that started the process of learning about coffee which eventually led to this film.

What did that natural coffee taste like?

Blueberry cobbler. That was the description and that's what I experienced and it was really good to experience a coffee that tasted like fruit.

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So, how did you go from blueberry cobbler coffee to making a film about farmers who were producing beans with this kind of cherry quality?

First, I started a blog called Beans and Grapes; I was into coffee and wine. When I set out to make this film, I didn’t have a script—there was buckets of information that I wanted to gather and scenes I wanted to build. And, the relationship with the farmer and how to think about coffee rose to the top and it became the intention of the film.

I have a young daughter; I’m up at five in the morning. And while I’m doing so, coffee is doing its job and I’m so appreciative of the farmer because of that. It changes every cup of coffee that I drink—I want to think about that person and their story and understand it.

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Each screening is a collaboration with local coffee shops in the area. Can you share your decision to involve them in the screening?

The film is a conversation starter. And, I was adamant about coffee being poured before the screening; pour-over, slow drip, espresso but not batch coffee. The movie talks about the craft of coffee and that’s what you get to experience at the screening and then see in the screening of the film. Partnering with local cafes allows people to use their presence as a tool to educate their consumers and gives the people something to rally around locally in addition to the film itself which is self-funded by Avocados and Coconuts.

"A Film About Coffee" screens next in LA, with Allegro Coffee and Blue Bottle Coffee on bar and then in Rochester, New York, with Pour Coffee Parlor and Brooklyn, New York with coffee from Allegro Coffee and Blue Bottle Coffee. For a full list of national and international screenings, visit the website.

Images courtesy of Brandon Loper, Avocados & Coconuts

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Werewolf Role-Play Game

Well-designed cards allow players to transition instantly into a world of accusations, persuasive speeches and fun

by Nara Shin in Design on 22 July 2014

Card Games, Mafia, Parties, Parlor Games, Party Games, Tech Industry

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The party game Mafia—invented by Russian psychology student Dimitry Davidoff in the late '80s as a teaching tool—has been shared and played all over the world (it's called Loups-garous in France, for example), simply through word of mouth. It's a game of inside knowledge, lying in the face of accusation and persuasive speeches, and has become a classic for summer campers and adult parties alike.

Interactive fiction writer and hacker Andrew Plotkin (aka Zarf) developed this murder-in-the-dark concept into Werewolf, with more culturally relatable characters—and it's become especially loved within the tech community, as spending hours accusing each other of being a werewolf turns out to be a pretty good no-frills bonding experience. Now Boulder, CO-based designer Mathew Sisson has put together a purchasable set of cards so friends can transition effortlessly from dinner to gameplay.

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"I [saw] some problems with Werewolf after I discovered it late one night during SXSW. (That Werewolf session in particular was being led by Icanhascheezburger's Ben Huh.) After SXSW I started playing it much more with friends back home, and noticed some people were timid about playing," Sisson tells CH. "It can be scary to go into a game that the majority of the people know, and you don't. My goal was to fix these things I found that were holding the game back. More specifically: reaching new players outside the role-playing demographic." Now, newbies and veterans of the game have tangible signposts to jump into the entertaining game—but only your skill-set can navigate you from getting eaten by a werewolf, or worse, witch-hunted by your fellow villagers.

Pre-order a Werewolf set, which comes with a handsome carrying case, for $22 online.

Images courtesy of Werewolf Co

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Music and More at Faroe Island's G! Festival

Nordic acts converge for a raucous and magical annual multi-day event

by David Graver in Culture on 22 July 2014

Arts Festivals, Faroe Islands, Music Festivals, Nordic Bands, Travel

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The clouds sit very low atop rugged mountains, each rising in a dramatic curve directly from the sea. Birds circle overhead while music seems to infuse with the mysticism of the landscape and oscillates over the sea. From 17 to 19 July 2014, this was the scene in Gøta, a small seaside town within one of the 18 remote Faroe Islands—an autonomous nation within the Kingdom of Denmark, found between Norway and Iceland. Once a year, around 8,000 people filter into the village for the G! Festival, a musical showcase of international talent coupled with the arts and other events. On an archipelago of roughly 50,000 residents and under a sky that's only dark for around an hour at this time of year, the small community hosts a wild celebration unlike any other.

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A main stage is located directly on the beach, where festival goers stand on the sand for anchor acts from around the world. Five minutes away on foot, the ruins of an old building—now covered in graffiti—are home to rave-like parties with DJ sets that ultimately close the event each night. In between, four other stages provide performances, varying from a mid-sized stage resting among a field surrounded by a playground to a cliffside container venue that's been constructed by arts organization Bureau Detours from Denmark. Pop-up shops, multiple temporary bars and restaurants and even an LGBTQ kissing booth compliment the stroll between each outdoor venue. And the Faroese, many who cite this event as one of their favorites all year, are excited and eager to party.

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The music's range and diversity astounds. At times, '80s-inspired electro-pop yields to Tom Waits-like vocals over gypsy folk in an 11-person band (where the clarinetist makes the most vibrant impression). The festival may have billed America's Sister Sledge as one of their top acts, but at the heart of it, Faroese bands demonstrate the islands' breadth of creativity. Both Teitur and Eivør have received global acclaim, and both made unique appearances—the former guested in another band while the latter hosted three living room concerts, in an actual living room. TÝR's guitar anthem rock and the growling doom metal of Hamferð, both local favorites, drew riotous swarms of people of all ages to the beach.

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Many of the other Nordic nations sent sonic ambassadors as well, demonstrating the richness of the region—and each drew substantial numbers. Norway's Moddi captivated with charming pop-folk, as water lapped at attendees' feet. Denmark's Lydmor churned out mesmerizing electro-pop, while the Danish Baby in Vain (three girls all roughly 18 years old) tore up post-punk while managing to demonstrate tremendous guitar virtuosity. Iceland's Kaleo took alternative rock to new heights, akin to Kings of Leon but with a dashing likability. From outside the Nordic region, Greek DJ and producer Palov and the UK's Alpha Steppa provided beats for various dance parties. And not only was there a main stage singalong, but an entire venue space was dedicated to communal singing. When placed in an unreal environment and with exceptional festival energy, everything becomes a possibility.

In addition to the Faroese, the festival fills with many international attendees, from fans to booking agents and label owners. According to attendee Francine Gorman of Nordic Playlist (a UK-based recommendation website drawing listeners to music from all the Nordic countries), "There's no better situation to discover a wide breadth of Faroese music. For an international audience that might not be familiar with the music that this nation makes, you can experience both the biggest acts and the real emerging stuff, too." That was a mission for festival bookers.

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Despite the exceptionally photogenic nature of the festival, one thing you won't find at the G! Festival is an audience with phones in hand, snapping away. Both locals and internationals—truly captivated by the festivities—were most often dancing and singing along. Even as clear skies turned to a heavy rain, the morale was still of sheer excitement and each event carried on with no loss in fervor. People even continued the routine of switching between the wooden beachside hot tubs and the cold North Atlantic Ocean. There is no shortage of music festivals in the world right now, but with its surreal setting, unique programming and enthusiastic Faroese, G! Festival is a magical universe all its own.

Keep an eye out for next year's festival line-up and tickets for purchase, both of which will be available online, with a one day pass starting at DKK 495.

Photos by David Graver

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