Doc of the Day: Beer Wars Review - Dan Schindel

Doc of the Day: Beer Wars

Posted in Days of Docs, Reviews by - July 29, 2012

It’s like Star Wars, except with beer instead of stars. And no magic or spaceships.

Dir. Anat Baron, 2009, 89 min, Viewed via Hulu

Looking at the beer wars as depicted in Beer Wars, a classic quote* from The Wire came to mind.

“You can’t call this shit a war. Wars end.”

It’s also a hideously lopsided war. On one side, three titanic corporations with billions of dollars worth of money to spend on lobbying, advertising, and distribution. On the other, a collection of unaffiliated micro-brewers, craft beer makers, and independent companies. One of these sides produces homogenized, watery junk that’s helped make America a joke amongst the booze-lovers of the world. The other makes stuff that tastes good. Which side would you guess is which?

The story of how Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors suppress every hint of competition and trying to gobble up every share of the market possible is the story of corporations in the realm of unchecked capitalism in a nutshell. In a world without rules, it’s not the business with the best product that wins; it’s the one who can best grease the wheels of the system. This is a playing field that heavily favors the already-established, and leaves little room for innovation. It’s a case study, and it’s an upsetting one. I’m not even much of a drinker, and this movie affected me. I can only imagine how it might impact someone who cares about this stuff.

The director of the film is Anat Baron, who was once the head of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, so the intentionality with which the movie has been made is obvious. But it isn’t any nebulous “lack of objectivity” on her part that hurts the film. Rather, it’s her terrible narration, which is spoken with no regard to human speech pattern or emotion. Cutesy animation (I’m finding that I hate cutesy animation in docs as a rule) about her business backstory doesn’t endear her to us. She gets in the way of her own movie too much. Even if a good deal of the information she’s bringing comes from personal experience, she can’t justify her own presence.

Beer Wars is an alright little film. If nothing else, it will make you reconsider how you view a supermarket shelf, since it turns out that there’s a ton of subterfuge that goes into what products get put where (Hint: If it’s at your eye level, someone paid an awful lot of money for it to be there). The ways in which Goliath undermines David are as disgusting as they are hilariously petty. Which is par for the course as long as we staunchly refuse to better regulate business.

*This is redundant. Every quote in The Wire is classic.

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Dan Schindel loves movies more than you do.

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