Full disclosure; I know Jesse Mariut, co-director and writer; he’s a Sac-town local who I’ve had the privilege of spending time with at various local charity events and he has been nice enough to share some fine cigars with me.
Found on Amazon, Itunes, and coming soon to more platforms including Google Play, “Hand Rolled: A film about cigars,” is an inside look at both the history of the industry and where it stands today, including looming threats on the horizon from the U.S. government as its’ ongoing war on tobacco and freedom of choice continues. Throughout the 90 minute documentary, narrated by the spectacular Peter Weller, everyone that has ever mattered in the cigar world is interviewed. If you are a smoker of cigars, you will recognize every name that sits for the camera and shares the story of how Cuba and Castro destroyed the cigar industry, only to see it move first to Tampa and, eventually, to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic, where it thrives today. No less than giants representing and/or from the actual families of Padron (the best cigars on the market in my opinion), Fuente, Davidoff, Rocky Patel, and many more dominate the narrative and tell their stories. Marvin Shanken, the man who founded Cigar Aficionado Magazine and is singularly credited with the resurgence of America’s love of premium cigars in the 1990’s, is featured and paid his due as well.
If you love cigars, know the cigar world, or have a desire to, the documentary is captivating and fascinating, and shows a side of what it truly takes to make the product most of us take for granted.
More than that, three things stuck out to me; this movie, whether it means to be or not, is an ode to Capitalism and all that is creates. Seeing how small towns in Latin America are thriving in ways never imagined solely as a result of the demand for premium cigars is beyond heartwarming. Secondly, the exposure of the FDA’s ongoing attempts to regulate and, to a large extent, destroy the cigar industry, all in the name of controlling peoples’ freedom is confronted directly and fairly. And, most importantly to me personally, the film affirms something I’ve said for 2 decades; if you meet someone who tells you that Cuban cigars are the best cigars in the world, you’ve met a cigar novice and ignoramous. The best of Cuba left long ago, and while a few greats remain, the greatest cigars in the world are made by hand by people realizing what they call the “American Dream,” in Nicaragua and the D.R.