Film Review: PERFUME WAR (Canada 2017) ***1/2

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perfume_warDirector: Michael Melski
Writers: Michael Melski, Barb Stegemann
Star: Pasha Ebrahimi

Review by Gilbert Seah

If there is ever an inspirational film that will move audiences to return their faith in the human race, PERFUME WAR is it.

Michael Melski’s fascinating documentary explores the extraordinary friendship between two best friends, Trevor and Barb whose shared mission of peace has made an enormous impact on countless lives.

The film begins with equal time devoted to each before concentrating on Barb. Captain Trevor Greene joins the military to fight the oppression of women in Afghanistan. Barb Stegemann is a single mom who is moved to take on her best friend’s mission after he is brutally axed in the head by the Taliban. Stegemann works with Afghan farmers to grow legal orange flower crops instead of the illegal heroin poppy–the Taliban’s chief income source–and creates an unlikely weapon in the fight for world peace – perfume. The topic is an interesting as it is strange. But director Melski inserts the inspirational factor into his film.

This he does firstly by dotting quotations by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius throughout his film. Example: “Change is nature’s delight.” Next Melski inspires through the lives of both Barb and Trevor. Trevor and Barb are visionaries.

Trevor describes himself as the most driven person he knows – and one that is driven on principles, not by money. Trevor is described by Barb as the most inspirational person who changed her life completely. She is also described by her University professor as an engineer of civilization, who in his 34 years of teaching has only encountered a handful. Barb and Trevor are best friends (no sex). When Trevor met Debbie, Barb knew Debbie was the perfect one for Trevor and the three became good friends. Barb and Trevor each pushes the other towards the limit.

When the Taliban takes an axe to Trevor’s head, Trevor survives. A miracle! More inspiration! Barb decides to give her life to continue Trevor’s mission. She embarks on the business venture (even securing funds from DRAGON’S DEN) so that the business can continue and the Afghanistan farmers can continue to work.

Melski’s film is total convincing as he includes clips of the farming in Afghanistan The enactment of the meeting that resulted in the axe to Trevor’s skull is also re-enacted to full disturbing effect. Melski also debates the topic of social good vs. monetary gain. Barb had to get capital from TV’s DRAGON’s DEN.

Those who have watched DRAGON’s DEN will be pleased to see the film’s heroine pitting her wits with her social venture to the dragons who only look at the money prospects of a business venture. Dragon Kevin O’Leary obviously gives a no. But Melski shows that even dragon have consciences and a human desire to do good. Another fascinating segment of the film is devoted to how Barb beats the big companies in the perfume business.

The film is about challenge. The film is about doing what’s right and to make a difference to change the world – to make it a better one. PERFUME WARS inspires!




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