Joe: Documentaries That Lit A Fire Inside

July 27, 2020

At Aquí, we take our cuppa Joe very seriously. Rest assured, because the same applies when it comes to design. As avid coffee drinkers, we often ask, “How do you like your coffee?” And as a creative boutique, we like to ask, “How do you like your design?” Joe is a blog segment where we - #TeamAquí - share our design inspirations.

Documentaries provide us with a window to the world. From famous (or infamous) stories to those that were left untold, every documentary exposes us to a new perspective, in a way that is structured and moving. Today, we share four documentaries that remind us of the fire within; the one that keeps us going.


Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Shokunin is Japanese for “craftsman”. It is also a term used to describe Jiro Ono, the man behind Sukiyabashi Jiro, the world-class sushi restaurant in Tokyo that earned three Michelin stars every year since 2007 to 2018. Jiro Dreams of Sushi tells the story of a talented and ritual-obsessed sushi chef. Directed by David Gelb, the documentary reveals Ono’s journey and relationship with sushi, which is hardly anything that anyone can fathom. 

Having spent half his life learning how to make the perfect sushi, Ono does not believe that he is there yet. A stickler for precision and accuracy, the artisan’s only goal is to serve sushi that is of the greatest quality. “Getting it right” is what Ono expects of himself. Having gone through the fundamentals of sushi-making for years, he expects nothing less from his sons who dream of continuing his legacy. are likely to take over the business. 

Lighting a Fire Inside: The scene that left an impression on Maria was the one where his son finally made an Ono-approved egg sushi after making hundreds that got rejected. You would wonder: “Why would anyone do that?” But the commitment and passion that Jiro Ono possesses remind people around him to always strive for the better, even for those watching Jiro Dreams of Sushi behind their screens. 

“Perfection is real in Jiro’s world. There is 100%,” said Maria. 


Formula 1 – Drive to Survive

What do you know about Formula 1? Fast cars, loud noises and amazing concerts? Well, Netflix’s docuseries Formula 1: Drive to Survive will have you know that there is more to the sport than meets the eye. With the release of season two, the documentary has been well received by many including those who were not followers of F1 before. There are many reviews online, amongst them includes a piece published by Wired titled “Netflix’s Drive to Survive is better than actual Formula 1”.

Watching an F1 race live or on TV is always swift and thrilling. However, we often do not get to see beyond the cars and race tracks, let alone putting a face to the name (with only a few glimpses of the racers and their teams). While some are only interested in watching the race, a handful of us are interested to know what goes on behind-the-scenes all year round prior to the race. 

Lighting a fire inside: Without giving away too much, Evelyn tells us the documentary is illuminating and unimaginable. Money, politics and drama - the sport is a lot more complicated than it seems. There is a lot at stake even when it comes down to the changing of tires; teamwork matters as much as the car itself. It does not matter which team you are rooting for because it will end up being an emotional roller coaster for everyone. The amount of pressure that everyone is being put through until the day of the race is intense and extreme. It is not something that anyone would choose to endure.

“Each season, every racer in the world competes for 20 seats. They train extremely hard for it - more than we could ever imagine,” said Evelyn.


Chef’s Table (Season 2) – Grant Achatz

Another of David Gelb’s fine works that we are sharing is Chef’s Table, the docuseries that tells the stories of many great culinary stars who are redefining the food scene in different parts of the world. Every episode centers on the journey of a different chef, unfolding in David Gelb’s amazing sequences made of the ever-incredible soundtrack and cinematography. 

The episode featuring Grant Achatz - the chef of Alinea - is in Nella’s words “the best episode” as Achatz is someone who sees food as art, or vice versa. Sitting through the episode makes you wonder how dining at his restaurants would be like. For someone whose primary purpose is to evoke emotions in a way that art does for many, Grant Achatz fuses food and science to make dining as experiential as possible. His techniques are highly experimental and ahead of one’s time.

Lighting a fire inside: The success of every chef is a sum total of their experiences in life - good or bad. Chef’s Table not only covers the ups of each story, they make sure that the downs are talked about too. In Grant Achatz’s anecdotes, you hear about his struggle with tongue cancer, both physically and mentally. That did not stop him from being more inventive as he made use of his memory and other senses to create and continue to use food as a medium of expression. “How can you be a chef, how can you cook, and not be able to taste?” asked Grant Achatz on Chef’s Table.

“It’s really intriguing to hear him talk about food. There was a scene where he used the concept of time to describe his dish which was really interesting,” Nella told us.



“Robots will one day take over our jobs (or the human race)” is a topic that is often discussed ever since the birth of artificial intelligence (AI). One of the few people who had a direct encounter with this topic is Lee Sedol, former South Korean Go Champion. Go is a two-player ancient Chinese strategy board game with more winning probabilities than chess. AlphaGo is the AI program developed by DeepMind to learn the game of Go. In the documentary, the program is being put to the test through a five-match game with Lee Sedol, an 18-time world champion at that point in time.

To say it felt like a battle against humankind is a dramatic yet almost fitting expression. Yu Ting said that the sense of defeat she felt at the start of the documentary was painful as Lee Sedol’s struggle with AlphaGo was made a spectacle for the world. What seemed like a “machine vs. humans” kind of film then turned into a meaningful display of a world champion’s complicated relationship with a ‘player he has never met’.  

Lighting a fire inside: The turning point in this documentary (which we will not reveal) is guaranteed to be a moment of celebration for everyone. Throughout the movie, Yu Ting realised that the immense pressure that Lee Sedol was experiencing was not from the attention he was getting, but from the expectations he was putting on himself. For Lee, the purpose of the game seemed to have shifted over time as he might have witnessed how technology can only make us better and not the other way around.

“Some parts were really hard to watch. For some reason, it felt like he was trying to win on behalf of all of us. It was a very emotional experience,” Yu Ting expressed.


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