Java production leaves a bitter taste

Black Gold

on October 06, 2006 by Richard Mowe
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That tall latte with a double shot of espresso will never taste the same again after watching this documentary on a global phenomenon about those at the bottom of the caffeine chain. Apparently more than 15 million Ethiopians, many of whom are forced to survive on international emergency aid, find themselves totally dependant on bean farming, making the farming community one of the biggest producers of beans in Africa.

In the same campaigning vein as Richard Linklater's feisty Fast Food Nation or Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me, the British brothers Marc and Nick Francis unpick the evidence to find out why, if coffee sold in cafes and shops raises around $30 billion, the poor grower receives barely a pittance. Among the statistics bandied around is the fact that 2 billion coffee servings are consumed around the world every day.

The star of the film, apart from its volatile subject matter, is one Tadesse Meskela, the indefatigable director of the Oromia Coffee Farmers' Cooperative Union. Quietly spoken Meskela looks after the interests of Ethiopian coffee farmers via the union. He realizes as he travels around seeking justice that, if growers bypass the first levels of bean buyers, they can salvage the situation by negotiating with the importers directly.

As documentaries in the cinema gain even greater credence and audiences no longer feel any consumer resistance to them, Black Gold raises issues in an engaging way without preaching or becoming a lesson in economics. At the end of it all you will certainly be looking for those Fair Trade stickers.

Distributor: California Newsreel
Directors/Producers: Marc Francis and Nick Francis
Genre: Documentary
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 77 min.
Release date: October 6, 2006 ltd, January 12, 2007 LA

Tags: Directors, Producers, Marc Francis, Nick Francis, Genre, Documentary
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