Thursday, March 06, 2008

Movie: All in This Tea

ALL IN THIS TEA takes us into the world of tea by following world-renowned tea expert David Lee Hoffman to some of the most remote regions of China in search of the best handmade teas in the world.Hoffman is obsessed; during his youth, he spent four years with Tibetan monks in Nepal, where he befriended the Dalai Lama, and was introduced to some of the finest tea—that golden nectar with which we can taste the distant past.Unable to find anything but insipid tea bags in the U.S., Hoffman began traveling to China to find tea for himself. In the process, he discovered the rarity of good, handmade tea, even in China, where the ancient craft of making tea has given way to mass production. This craft cannot be learned from a book, but has been handed down through generations of tea makers for thousands of years.Hoffman tries to convince the Chinese that the farmers make better tea and that their craft should be honored and preserved. He drags the reluctant tea factory aficionados up a lush, terraced mountainside in their blue suits to bring them face to face with those “dirty” farmers. In an ironic twist, Hoffman reintroduces them to their own country and one of its oldest traditions.Images of the farmers standing on the street, selling a week’s harvest for three dollars, in the shadow of China’s increasing number of high-rises illustrate the paradox that stepping into the modern world imposes. But, Hoffman is even a step ahead of his own country in that he is advocating “fair trade” and organics. Despite Hoffman’s at times argumentative and condescending manner, we become increasingly empathetic to him; he is only one small voice against a vast and complex machine.As his first film shot digitally, Les Blank was a one-man crew who blended in with the environment, taking his famous fly-on-the-wall approach even further. A handheld camera provides an unpolished intimacy with the farmers’ faces and their tea-stained hands. The film moves from a modern, urban setting to a pastoral China rarely glimpsed by westerners. Scenes shot in cinema verité are interwoven with more formal presentations about the fundamentals of tea, including a brief history lesson. This helps make clear what is at stake, and thereby lends weight to Hoffman’s endeavor.It is hoped that the viewer will feel as if they have been somewhere they’ve never been before, and ask themselves what is out there that is worth preserving.More information can be found at the sites below:

No comments: