For today, here's the film Wax & Gold, which was a Vimeo Staff Pick Premiere in February 2020. Wax & Gold was produced by Farm League in partnership with Stumptown Coffee Roasters. Wax & Gold explores the deep and rich history of Ethiopia – the birthplace of humanity and, of course, coffee. Director Britton Caillouette of Farm League, uses the country’s rich tradition of music to contextualize the shared histories and traditions of the people, the culture, and their most famous beverage.
Wax & Gold
Produced by Stumptown Coffee Roasters, in collaboration with Farm League, Wax & Gold is their second film exploring the origin countries from where they roast their various coffees.
Shot on multiple film formats and using a tapestry of sounds, director Britton Caillouette weaves together these expressive elements with interviews from Ethio-jazz icon Mulatu Astatke, Ethiopiyawi Electronic pioneer Endeguena Mulu (Ethiopian Records) and coffee producer Haile Gebre (Mordecofe). The film, like the country, is vast and textured and full of surprises. Each scene stands on its own, but collectively, the contrasting ideas build a fuller, richer and more honest portrait of Ethiopia.
Jeffrey Bowers, from Vimeo, interviewed Britton Caillouette about the making of the film:
On working with Stumptown and deciding the scope of the film: From the beginning we planned to present the film as part of a larger multimedia art show, so we deliberately avoided narrative conventions. I was interested in exploring competing origin myths of coffee in a place where it is so deeply ingrained in the culture. I wanted to shoot multiple formats and let the subject matter dictate the approach. For me, the process of making a film like this is just as important as the end result. For a few weeks, my film crew and I took a meandering path around the country with the goal of witnessing meaningful experiences which connected coffee to a much bigger, deeper, and more ancient culture.
On approaching the story: I wanted music to be our way into the story, but I didn’t want the film to feel nostalgic or like it was glorifying some “Golden Age.” When I discovered Endueguena’s music it really spoke to me, and it felt like an exciting counterpoint to the more traditionalist styles. Like the competing origin myths, playing the different music styles against each other played into the theme of “moving forward by looking back.”
On the visual and sonic style: My friend Michael Dozal captured a ton of raw sounds from our journey, from musical elements and chanting in stone churches to rainforest birds and coffee roasting. We also shot multiple formats and film stocks – even a hand-crank 35mm camera – which gave the project many layers of texture. Our editor, Scott Butzer at Cabin Editing Company, did an incredible job making sense of these disparate elements. He really embraced my desire to juxtapose the vignettes and visual ingredients and brought it to a new level.
On challenges: Traveling around Ethiopia with 40 cases of gear and thousands of feet of film was not easy. The security folks at a lot of African airports don’t even know what film is anymore.