NOTE: When I moved to a new site, this "Beer Wars" series was mangled/destroyed during the move. I've reconstructed it by copying/pasting another copy of the original posts. I also lost the comments in their original form. I've copied/pasted the comments, but had to do so under my own name. So although it looks as though I'm the only commenter, I'm not. In each case, I've identified the original commenter.
Our advance instructions were clear (and I’m happy to say we all followed orders):The panel would open with each panelist responding to a film clip. We did not see the clips in advance, so we didn’t know what we would be responding to. Each person would respond in order, and none of us were to interrupt that person while he/she was speaking.
Once we’d all spoken, Ben launched another series of questions of his choosing, directed at a panelist of his choosing. No surprise, Sam and Rhonda, as the film’s “stars,” received most of the questions, with Greg getting a chunk of them. (Again, we were not told in advance what questions would be asked.)
The half hour zoomed past at Autobahn speed. Indeed, the one thing we all agreed on as we left the stage after the event ended was that we would have loved another hour, because there was plenty to say.
Okay. So that’s what happened. (And yeah, I should have included this last bit of whys/wherefores in the previous post. What can I say?)
First the film. The film was terrific. It moved at a lively pace, nearly dizzying at moments, and it had a clear narrative structure: Anat leaves alcohol business, ponders nature of alcohol business, decides to follow two beermakers, two entrepreneurs whose stories have quite different endings. It was often hilarious and almost as often sobering. (How could anyone watch Rhonda hauling her case from bar to bar, from meeting to meeting, night after night, day after day, and not be moved by her spirit and energy?)
Was the film perfect? No. Had it been my film (and I’m definitely not cut out for film-making), I would have introduced Rhonda, Sam, and the three-tier system earlier in the proceedings. I also would have painted the conflict with more shades of grey: I don’t think the conflict is so much Big Guy v. Little Guy v. Middleman Monsters, so much as it is a conflict about broader and deeper American values. (That, by the way, is where I’m headed with all of this, so hang on a minute for that.)
More to the point, it wasn’t my film. It was Anat’s film and her perspective and she went through all this effort because she wanted to make a point of her choosing, not mine. And judged on that basis, in terms of both its technical qualities and its narrative, I thought the film was excellent: Lively, well-paced, well-directed, and thoughtful. The cinematography and editing were first-rate and as a director, Anat possesses an exquisite sense of timing. Her wit and humanity shone in equal measures.
Someone said to me at the reception after that he didn’t even want to get up to use the john because he was afraid he’d miss something. That means the film succeeded. I was deliriously happy on Anat’s behalf.
So I urge the beer geeks to separate the film’s topic from the film itself. Pretend it was a film about, I dunno, brain surgery or tree trimming or mountain biking.
In other words, take your off beer blinders and judge the film as a film.