Hand Rolled the movie review. A few weeks ago, Hand Rolled, the long-awaited documentary about premium cigars was released on iTunes, with Google Play and Amazon following. We watched it a few times, as cigar aficionados, as cigar geeks but also as a critic. And we thoroughly enjoyed it. But it left us wanting for more.
The Cuban revolution
The documentary starts with the revolution in Cuba. And the atrocities that were done by the Batista dictatorship. The voice-over mentions the thousands of people killed by the Batista government and their disrespect for human rights. But no words on the atrocities, murders and the complete absence of human rights under the Castro regime. Only later in the documentary, Guayabera lady Bertha Bravo mentions something about the Castros. She is not smoking any Cuban cigars until Cuba is free. And even though we believe that Castro had good intentions when he started the revolution, he got worse than Batista after all. That’s something that should have been mentioned in our opinion.
Another subject in the documentary is family histories. The history of Arturo Fuente, J.C. Newman, and Padron are well documented. New things we learned from the documentary are that Arturo Fuente went to Nicaragua before starting over in the Dominican Republic. Something that would never have happened if the Sandinistas didn’t start their revolution. Without that, the Opus X, the first Dominican Puro, would never have existed. Also that Jose Orlando Padron was involved in humanitarian missions to Cuba to release political prisoners. He helped to release thousands of them. And in return, he was called a traitor in America and Nicaragua. His factory was burned down and several attempts on his life were taken.
Fight against the FDA
The final subject is the fight against FDA regulations. The implications of the pending regulations are immense. As Lou Barletta (U.S. representative PA 11th district, Republican) says, it could be a matter of national security. If the FDA starts regulating cigars, it could cause instability in Central America, opening doors to revolutions. And it would cause mass immigration, as hundreds of thousands of jobs all over Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic would simply disappear. And all the charity, a subject that gets some attention in the documentary, will come to a halt. Padron and the Cigar Family Charity Organization fund schools in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic is mentioned in the documentary. Just as the daycare center of Placencia. Educational opportunities for the kids in those areas will disappear, creating long term problems. And US Senator West Virginia Joe Manchin III (Democrat) says that people need to be able to choose what’s good for them or not.
Room for improvement
Our issue with the documentary is that all three subjects are all over the documentary. In our opinion, it would have worked better in chapters. First some of the cigar history, then the family histories. And then a final chapter about the fight against regulations, a threat to those histories. That would have been a better built up. And as cigar geeks ourselves, we would have loved to see more ‘technical’ knowledge in the movie. More about the growing, curing, fermenting and aging. Such as in the older infomercials from CAO (from seed to soul) and Rocky Patel (against all odds). Now we understand that getting too much into detail isn’t possible in a 90-minute documentary. And that the average cigar smoker might not be too interested in that. But ignoring that part of the process is a bit of a missed opportunity.
In the part about the battle against the legislation, it would have been good to make room for a few retailers. People like David Garofalo has interesting things to say. The impact of the pending legislation is immense for the livelihood of cigar retailers. That’s a part of the fight that didn’t get any attention in the movie.
A must-see for every cigar smoker
We don’t want to sound like a negative, bitter, critic and we won’t. We thoroughly enjoyed the documentary. It is well made. The camera work is great, with sublime shots. The end, during the credits, is good for some great laughs. It is a movie that all cigar smokers all over the world should see. So go to iTunes and rent or buy it. Or wait until it’s available on Amazon or Google Play. But watch it, a must-see. Even non-smokers can enjoy the movie and probably sympathize with the battle against the stupid FDA proposals. Ministry of Cigars gives the documentary 2 thumbs up.