NZFF: Candyman (NZ/USA, 2010)

Next flim fevistal offering: Candyman. NZ filmmaker Costa Botes went to California to make this documentary about David Klein, the inventor of the Jelly Belly jellybean. This was a candy product that, not to overstate the case, revolutionised candy production in the U.S. (and, some speculate, helped humanise Ronald Reagan). Klein sold out of Jelly Belly in the 80s, for a pittance relative to the worth of his invention. More importantly, he has been written out of history by the Jelly Belly company, who simply do not acknowledge his existence.

So the film is a character study of an interesting character who had a great idea, followed it through with his heart and soul, then lost everything.

Klein is fascinating. He’s entrepreneurial and good at business operations, with an instinctive eye for marketing and branding – the Mad Men advertisers could learn something from him. But at the same time he’s compeletely not cut out for business-as-she-is-played. That fateful act of selling out was a ridiculous decision from any sensible business perspective. More importantly, Klein’s heart is not in profit at all – he marries his business sensibility to a deep love of helping people, regardless of the cost to himself. Unfailingly, stupidly, generous, he was never going to thrive in the world of real business.

So this is a fascinating doco looking at Klein, at who he is and what makes him tick, as well as the ins and outs of the Jelly Belly story. It will particularly resonate in the U.S. where this candy brand is a genuine cultural icon.

However, I can’t recommend this unreservedly. It felt, to me, like a 45 minute documentary packed into a 75 minute package. There wasn’t enough in it to sustain my enthusiasm.

So: very good, but not great.

(And, special mention to the music by Lower Hutt’s finest, Tom McLeod. Music in a doco is often hard to get right, but this was a delight – it’s no surprise Costa made special mention of it when introducing the film.)