TEGUCIGALPA – Carlos Membreño’s family had always made a living from coffee growing, but a devastating crop disease caused by an orange, powdery fungus forced them to make the switch to cattle-raising and corn farming.
Those personal ties to the industry led Membreño, a filmmaker and screenwriter rather than a farmer, to pay homage to Honduran coffee producers in “Cafe con Sabor a mi Tierra,” a newly released film shot at six locations in Honduras, as well as in Bremen, Germany, and Tortosa, Spain.
Produced by Sin Fronteras Estudios, this drama film inspired by real events has been well received by movie-goers in his homeland since its premiere last week.
The picture is the fifth brought to the big screen by Membreño, who said his debut, a 2014 comedy-drama titled “Una Loca Navidad Catracha,” has been his most successful to date and remains his personal favorite.
“My whole family lived from coffee, but coffee leaf rust hit them so hard that they ended up throwing in the towel and dedicating themselves to other pursuits like cattle ranching and corn farming. That’s where my admiration for coffee growers comes from,” Membreño said in an interview with EFE in Tegucigalpa.
He added that his latest work explores “the human side behind every cup of Honduran coffee” and serves as a tribute to the country’s more than 100,000 small coffee growers.
Coffee is Honduras’ leading export commodity, while the Central American nation is the third-biggest Latin American producer of that cash crop and the fifth-largest producer worldwide, according to official figures.
Despite low international prices, sales from the last harvest in Honduras amounted to roughly $1 billion.
“‘Cafe con Sabor a mi Tierra’ shows the sacrifice behind a cup of coffee. It’s a project that dignifies the work of farmers,” said Membreño, who currently is working on other film projects with producers from Colombia, Los Angeles and New York.
Membreño said he was struck by how much economic movement is generated by such a small bean, although the pay received by the farmer is low relative to the rest of the supply chain.
“This film shows the arduous work of our farmers, the human side behind the cup of coffee consumed not only in Honduras but worldwide,” the director said.
Some of the film’s scenes were shot in the Honduran municipality of Marcala, where one of the country’s premier coffees is produced.
The overriding theme of “Cafe con sabor a mi tierra” is resilience in the face of hardship.
Among the real situations depicted on screen is the devastation wrought by coffee leaf rust and other crop diseases, which have led many farmers to economic ruin.
The film shows two different worlds of coffee growing, depicting a small producer who was on the verge of losing his land and house due to unpaid debt with a bank and a large family farm that “no longer puts all its eggs in one basket but instead has diversified its estate.”
“So we see the counterpart of a successful family, infighting between coffee growers when coffee prices fall on the international market and when they are hit by diseases like coffee leaf rust that attacks the plantation,” Membreño said.