Posts Tagged ‘Delicious Peace Grows In A Ugandan Coffee Bean’

NY Times Highlights Subject of Film Produced by V&V’s Principals

June 5, 2013

Having started filming the documentary Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean back in 2006, the JEMGLO production team was excited to see The New York Times today refer to the cooperative of Christian, Jewish and Muslim coffee farmers who comprise the documentary subject. The principals of JEMGLO, producer/writer Ellen Friedland director/DP/cinematographer Curt Fissel, are also the principals of Voices and Visions.

Highlighted in the Food section, the Times noted that “J.J. Keki, a Jewish Ugandan coffee farmer…enlisted Christian, Jewish and Muslim farmers to form a coffee cooperative. The result: Delicious Peace Coffee (Mirembe Kawomera), which comes in a nutty-tasting light roast, a rich dark roast and decaffeinated.” The Times’ mention coincided with the launch of a Smithsonian Folkways recording on CD produced by Rabbi Jeffrey Summit of 16 songs by the farmers titled Delicious Peace: Coffee, Music and Interfaith Harmony in Uganda. 

The first version of the documentary, narrated by actor Ed O’Neill, was released in 2010 and screened at over 35 film festivals internationally, including many prestigious festivals, and won a number of meaningful awards. This past March Ellen, Curt and several additional members of a production team, returned for a fifth trip to the cooperative to videotape updates (link to the blog), including a qualitatively improved standard of living thanks in large measure to Fair Trade wages paid to the farmers by their coffee buying partner, Thanksgiving Coffee Company.

delicious peace, documentary, smithsonian, new york times, uganda, fair trade, interfaith, fair trade coffee, jewish nonprofit, documentary production

The documentary is available to educational institutions through the Video Project. In addition, socially-conscious media company Specialty Studios is distributing Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean by organizing Delicious Peace Parties where the film is screened and Fair Trade coffee and chocolate are enjoyed. Please contact them for more information! Bridges Virtual and Real Over Love of Coffee

November 8, 2012

Catalin Munteanu greeted my husband Curt and me two weeks ago in Café Lauri in Lohja, Finland carrying roses and euro cents for the parking meter. Until that moment, Catalin’s personality had been boxed in words and pictures on screen for us, as ours had been for him. Of course, online posts summarized in a few sentences at a time hardly shed light on a person’s inner being. That task requires an in-person meeting. From the outset, bridging the void between group-focused friendships and face-to-face relationships was a key goal of the fledgling social media site, and this meeting between Catalin and us was destined to be the first experiment, made possible because a client of our video company Voices & Visions Productions had sent us to Finland for a corporate video shoot.

About two years ago my friend Spyros Dellaportas in Santa Monica, California started an open group on Facebook called Enjoy Your Coffee. “Ellen, thees ees going to be the beeggest group on Facebook,” he told me in his charming Greek-accented English. I smiled because one has to smile when Spyros is excited. Every morning for decades he goes to Peet’s Coffee on 14th Street and Montana Avenue, reserving an outdoor table that expands with coffee drinkers through the pre-work hours. He brings chocolates for the kids who come by and biscuits for the dogs. People scramble to sit next to him and collect the happy energy that radiates out of his presence. He tells silly jokes that make him giggle, and his reaction makes others laugh more than the punch lines. He finds occasions to bring cakes to celebrate birthdays and otherwise undefined happydays, insisting that every passer-by try a slice of the daily special. He wears bright-colored t-shirts and Hawaiian prints and drives a neon yellow convertible Corvette.

And he doesn’t really understand how to use the Internet. But this Enjoy Your Coffee group, he insisted, would be the beeggest group on Facebook. So when it made Spyros smile, I smiled too.

And then Enjoy Your Coffee began to swell with members despite the lack of a formal plan for social media marketing or even a volunteer assigned to the job. Spyros did no outreach – remember, IT is not his specialty. Instead, he posted daily photos of the coffee group. He also posted photos of beautiful cakes and cappuccinos with artistic designs on top. He posted images of himself with his canine friends or of pretty scenes wherever. He posted lots of photos everyday, and each time he posted something, a notice was pinged to the collection of members. 200 members. 400. 1,000…

Ping! Spyros Dellaportas has posted on Enjoy Your Coffee (photo of himself in bright orange shirt smiling as he drinks his coffee).

Ping! Spyros Dellaportas has posted on Enjoy Your Coffee (photo of himself with the local moms and pre-schoolers).

Ping! Spyros Dellaportas has posted on Enjoy Your Coffee (mother-in-law joke).


I kept thinking: Poor Spyros. People will soon unjoin this group. Who has time for these diversions?

Then: 2,500 members. 3,000. As of this writing: 4,317.

Just as I was beginning to recognize that Spyros was onto something, he approached me again. “Ellen, now we need to create our own coffee social network! It will be the beeggest social network!” I smiled, because Spyros was excited. And when he asked for help in putting it together and assumed I’d be involved, I responded affirmatively. No one who enjoys the company of special people turns down that happy face.

Spyros gathered together a group of friends from the morning coffee klatsch to help him spearhead this initiative. After a few drinks and some truffle-salted fries (since this adventure was intended to be fun, first and foremost) we addressed a cornerstone question: How would we distinguish from other social networks?

We realized that what we all have in common is shared coffee time together every weekday at Peet’s roughly between 7:00 to 9:00 am (on scattered schedules). Our lives diverge completely the rest of each day in work, ideology, interests, and a host of things that might otherwise be divisive, but in those hours we are one unified coffee group in Santa Monica, California. We were aware, too, that groups like ours meet in West Hollywood, a few miles away. And San Francisco and New Orleans. And in New York, albeit indoors for most of the year. In Europe as well, and Asia and South America. There were people enjoying their coffee around the world, together, everyday, as we did.

Then we thought: What if we could create as a collection of coffee groups (and unaffiliated individuals) internationally, each of which/whom would be an in-person welcome pad for others when visiting its home territory? In this way, worldwide members could establish friendships everywhere we travel, bonded by and the love of this drink that we all share.

So that was thought. The meeting with Catalin was the first reality.

We met him at his favorite coffee shop in the Finnish town of Lohja, where Catalin currently lives, located about an hour outside Helsinki. It was easy to spot him when we walked in – of course, because he had posted photos of himself online, but also because a coffee mug with a big logo plastered around its perimeter sat on his table. The logo had been designed by Spyros – that had been one of his bevy of professions – and he took delight in attaching it to coffee mugs, videos, t-shirts, and whatever other objects could comfortably advertise this new social network that made him smile. He was also happy to send the promotional mug and some other materials to supporters everywhere on the planet as committed to this project as Catalin. Next to Catalin’s mug sat a looseleaf notebook (sporting as its cover a super-sized print of the EYC logo) containing a ream of information about this new entity-under-development. Catalin, after all, had been crowned the Finnish Ambassador to EYC.

We drank coffee together and learned about each other. In 2010 Curt and I had produced a documentary entitled Delicious Peace Grows in a Ugandan Coffee Bean about an interfaith coffee cooperative in Uganda, and through the documentary we became very knowledgeable about the crop/commodity/addiction/pleasure. Catalin, a lover of the drink, could qualify as a Jeopardy contestant given all coffee subcategories of questions. He’s read the important volumes about the subject; knows about coffee production and flavors from countries around the world; is aware of the best growing, picking and roasting conditions; and knows about the plethora of ways of serving it. He is as sensitive to its flavors as a top oenologist is to the Wine Enthusiast’s choices. One day he’d like to have a coffee shop of his own, for which he’s already envisioned all the “must have” elements. But for the moment he’s content to drink his coffee at Café Lauri, the sole place in Lohja a coffee connoisseur would dare to bring appreciative guests.

(Interestingly, a woman at the next table overhearing our conversation chimed in her dissatisfaction with coffee in Finland. She had just put in a bid on a home in southern France, where she can drink good coffee, she said. Incidentally: It’s comments like these amongst coffee lovers internationally that spark the formation of regular coffee groups at coffee houses with members who post on coffee social network sites like

Curt and I left our in-person meeting with Catalin carrying a few little gifts he had bought for Spyros (can’t say more until I see Spyros to deliver them – but I know they will bring him joy). Catalin has never met Spyros, and until I called our friend from the table at Café Lauri where we were enjoying our coffee to Spyros’ table at Peet’s in Santa Monica, the two men had never heard each other’s voice. Yet somehow Spyros’ smile had contagiously affected Catalin,’s newest ambassador.

The next day Curt and I departed from Finland with more than videotapes we had shot for our client. We left with a feeling that we had made a new friendship through which we had the opportunity to experience a real-life snapshot of Finland. This relationship had born out of enjoyment of our coffee, expressed first in actuality at Spyros’ daily coffee table, then virtually through the social media site he had created to expand his morning experience into the boundless world of the Internet, then in actuality again, this time across the globe, unifying folks who are eager to establish friendships over a shared bond of coffee enjoyment.

To quote Spyros: “The rest is history! Enjoy Your Coffee!”












February 22, 2012

Up until recently, I never had favorites. No favorite color, number, outfit, airline, or even restaurant.  Though my son Jared is a magician, I was never a good candidate for his mentalism tricks, like “pick your favorite card in the deck.”

But now I have one favorite thing I can talk about: My favorite part of my job, which is getting the chance to brainstorm and create little visual video stories about every person, place, company, thing, event – whatever – that comes my way.  Sometimes I feel like this opportunity has transformed my brain partly into a lens that captures infinite elements as I go about my day, and partly into a computer that crafts the endless possibilities into a fantastic string of short stories.

Unfortunately, not all of these videos-in-waiting become videos-in-reality, but I am delighted each time they do. The most recent video web clip focused on ONE of my favorite initiatives by ONE of my favorite people, Spyros Dellaportas, the organizer of my morning coffee klatsch in Santa Monica where I frequent when we are working out of our Los Angeles base. (Okay – that is my favorite real-life coffee gathering.) Spyros has formed an e-group, now living mostly on Facebook, called ENJOY YOUR COFFEE, with the goal of connecting everyone in the world through coffee. (I admit that I am excited about anything coffee-related since we produced our Delicious Peace documentary about Fair Trade, interfaith Ugandan coffee farmers.)

While you are enjoying your morning cup of coffee, please join ENJOY YOUR COFFEE on Facebook and become part of Spyros’ movement! With so many folks around the world already members and responding to posts on the page in multiple languages, I am certain the group will become a favorite page for you — whether or not you are prone to having favorites.

Work and Personal Life: One and the Same For Me

August 14, 2010

In theory I agree with the notion of setting aside private time separate from work time. I think I should be able to go to the beach on a weekend day in the summer, jump over the waves, and read a captivating novel that transports me to a place far away from my never-ending list of daily tasks.

But here’s why that philosophy is so hard for me to live: Everything I do, everything that pops into my mind, is a story. That is how it has always been for me, since the time I was a little girl. I imagine details about the lives of people who walk past me in the streets or run with their dogs in the park. I wonder about the history of buildings with interesting architectural details. I try to envision all of the steps that go into the manufacture of my smartphone or a jar of salsa and all of the diverse individuals who played a role in those items finding my hands or refrigerator as a final destination. I think about these stories even when I’m swimming at the beach or peering up from my compelling book as I sit on a blanket in the sand. It’s just the way I’m made. It’s also what I do for a living. I record stories through video.

Sometimes the stories are major documentaries, like one our company produced that is currently circulating around the film festival circuit called Delicious Peace Grows In A Ugandan Coffee Bean. It’s about interfaith Ugandan farmers building peaceful relationships and economic development through a business endeavor: a coffee cooperative. But often the stories are much less global, yet equally interesting to those of us who love to imagine, then show and tell.  Through our corporate video business, Voices & Visions Productions, we had the opportunity a few weeks ago to tell the story of a company in England producing a biodegradable formula inserted into heating systems to prevent corrosion without harming the environment. Last week we created short stories about an ergonomically superior scissor for hair stylists. This week we will be updating a video about the way some people with incomes below the poverty line have turned around their lives as a result of a supportive housing project. Next week we will shoot footage showing tangible benefits to over a million people of a major retirement system. In each case we get to peer through the windows of people’s lives and ask questions that pry open stories.  It’s my job to ask (how lucky is that!), then their responses bring more inquiries followed by more answers followed by more questions, and the floodgates of information tinged with emotion frequently open.

It’s usually way more than we need to produce a corporate video for which we are hired. But it’s what I need to satisfy my imagination, and it doesn’t cost the client anything extra since we are at the location anyway. In fact, it often boomerangs to the client’s benefit: the extra sound bites occasionally come in handy down the road when new ideas blossom on the client’s marketing horizon and the quotes that have collected dust on the “video library shelf” find usefulness.

When I read in the news about a grant that a nonprofit has received to create a fantastic project, I want to be involved in videotaping it, to watch the idea transform into a reality that affects people’s lives, and then to tell the broad story as well as all the human puzzle pieces inside it. Private equity or hedge funds buying new businesses and investing in their growth? I can hardly contain my excitement – I see job creation, corporate creativity, economic hope through small business – and I really want to shout out the story. Then there’s the new and exploding “green” field, in which there isn’t a single program I hear about that I don’t want to dive into with our cinematographer, as if I’m on a quest for some hidden treasure.

So it is that I can’t separate my personal time from my work time. They are really one and the same to me. Tomorrow my husband and I will be attending the wedding of the daughter of good friends of ours. She and her fiancé are getting married on the Jersey Shore. “Come early, stay late!” our friends implore. “We will celebrate at the beach!” There will be waves and sand on the sunny, 80 degree day. But my brain won’t be able to just give itself over to thoughtless joy. It will dance with the wonderful story of how our friend’s daughter and her husband-to-be met, and it will revel in the stories about the collection of people who are there – some of which I know and others of which I have yet to learn. And undoubtedly there will be some unanticipated thing or person I will see at the beach that will spark my imagination. All good stories. Tomorrow I will have to enjoy them without reaching for electronics.