Even without the careful framing and exquisite camerawork, Costa Rica is gorgeous. Green mountains and a wet climate produce sweeping panoramas — and delicious coffee, when it’s being produced.
A global economic downturn and a coffee recession in the 1990s sent the men of a remote Costa Rican farming community to the city for work, while the women, seeking employment and purpose of their own, took up the dormant practice, knowing that if they didn’t create jobs, their village, culture, and way of life would disintegrate.
The result: a coffee roaster and, eventually, a sustainable income for their community. And the new documentary A Small Section of the World. The film is a pastiche of interviews with several generations of Costa Rican women, from the original founders of the roaster to their daughters who now run the business to the one female coffee distributor in Costa Rica who took a chance on the new initiative and taught the women of Biolley how to process the coffee they grew.
It can be unsettling, for regular documentary viewers, to take in a film so relentlessly optimistic, communal, and lacking in nostalgia, but those qualities were key to the success of the women of Biolley. Their story, underscored by glorious food-porny close-ups of the coffee-making process and the jewel tones of Costa Rican fauna, makes for a delicious, compact viewing experience — like a rich, smooth shot of espresso.