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The message and momentum of Michael Melski’s Perfume War is contagious

3 out of 4 stars

Title
Perfume War
Written by
Michael Melski, Barb Stegemann
Directed by
Michael Melski
Starring
Barb Stegemann and Trevor Greene
Genre
Documentary
Classification
PG
Country
Canada/Rwanda/USA/U.K.
Language
English
Year
2016

You don't have to be Coco Chanel to know there's dollars in scents. But it took the unsinkable Nova Scotian Barb Stegemann to employ the power of perfume in the fight against poverty, war and poppy-based patriarchal terrorism against women. An uplifting documentary from Michael Melski follows Stegemann (the author of the bestselling book The 7 Virtues of a Philosopher Queen) as she reacts to the brutal wounding of her Canadian soldier best friend in Afghanistan by purchasing the oils of roses and orange blossoms from Afghan farmers and giving them a better deal than they could ever expect from their illegal poppies-for-heroin harvesting. Her "make perfume, not war" social entrepreneurial campaign is inspiring to everyone but Dragons' Den star Kevin O'Leary, a self-styled Scrooge who refuses to wake up and smell the retail-activism possibilities. (Stegemann calls him a bully; she's our hero.) The soundtrack is a bit earnest and the quotes from Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius make for a self-helpy vibe, but otherwise the film's message and momentum is contagious.

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