A Few Words on "Barista"

baristafilm By Rock Baijnauth, Director, "Barista"

Three years ago, we set out on a journey to make a film that would be a love letter to coffee. I wanted to talk about where coffee came from and where it was headed next, but after going to my first regional Barista Championship in Santa Cruz, the direction of the film quickly changed course. Seeing all of these passionate industry professionals made me look at the way I made movies in a whole different light. Witnessing their hard work and dedication to a thing that they loved pushed me to want to not only want to finish the movie, but to make it as exceptional as it could be.  I thought it would be rad to use competition as a metaphor for striving to be excellent at something–to chase a passion in spite of all things, including commerce.

I’ve been told by many baristas that it’s tough to do what they love and still make a livable wage and that competition is a gateway into bigger and better things for them.  This theme is ever present in the film. Believe me, as a filmmaker I know what this dichotomy is all about… I’ve eaten many of bowl of Easy Mac out of necessity over the course of this production. I love Easy Mac though. I digress.

Fast forward three years–we’ve have an incredible run with BARISTA. I got to play the film in my hometown, Toronto, for my parents who had never seen my work until now. I got to play the ArcLight in Hollywood, something I’ve wanted for 20 years (Believe me, teenage Rock is still in shock and he's doing cartwheels somewhere deep in my soul). We got lampooned by Seth Myers on Late Night television and as I write this, we are currently #2 in all docs and #2 in all Indie films on the iTunes charts.

YasminIn spite of all these amazing things,  perhaps the most gratifying thing to come out of the film for me was receiving an email form an Ethiopian born student named Yasmin who claimed the film inspired her to start a Barista event of her own back home in Ethiopia. I’m including the email she so thoughtfully crafted, because it moved me to tears and was truly inspiring to read. I hope it inspires others too.

This film has brought me so much. I’ve met incredible people and feel truly excepted by an entire industry. I couldn’t ask for more, except that I wish that everyone in the coffee industry and everyone who’s just plain into coffee watches this movie and that it sparks a dialogue for change in the industry. Moreover, I hope this film makes those who are doing what they love feel validated and makes those who are no longer doing what they love ask themselves 'why not?' 

In order to widen the reach of the film, we have made it available for rent on iTunes for $0.99 for the next 4 days. Please check it out and hopefully it’ll spark with you as it has for so many.  I guess you can say that even though I’ve never prepared an espresso for six judges or raced to complete a signature beverage in less than fifteen minutes, these competitions have enriched my life more than I can express. They have taught me not only how little I knew about coffee, but also how little I knew about perfection.


There are many who may overlook the validity of Barista competitions, people who may think they are sheer frivolity, or think that they simply provide a inaccurate view of what the specialty coffee industry is. I think nothing could be further from the truth. These competitions help us remember that there are people out there who strive for excellence everyday whether they are competing or not, they shine a spotlight on an entire industry and evoke discussion. More importantly, they bring people together and how can something that does that be deemed a bad thing by anyone. 

My hat goes off to the BGA and SCAA for putting on these amazingly complex events filled with so many moving parts and making it look easy.

Rent BARISTA on iTunes

BlogDanny Pinnell