Winner of "Best Achievement in Production" at the 2007 British Independent Film Awards.
BLACK GOLD asks us "to wake up and smell the coffee," to face the unjust conditions under which our favorite drink is produced and to decide what we can do about it. The film traces the tangled trail from the two billion cups of coffee consumed each day back to the coffee farmers who produce the beans. In particular, the film follows Tadesse Meskela as he tries to get a living wage for the 70,000 Ethiopian coffee farmers he represents. In the process, BLACK GOLD provides the most in-depth study of any commodity on film today and offers a compelling introduction to the "fair trade" movement galvanizing consumers around the globe.
Reviews(see the best reviews)
great documentary covering disparity in wages, through discounting produce from less powerful countries.
Well directed and insightful without being too sentimental.. It really drives home the injustice of the workers plight and the need to be fully aware of where the products we consume come from..
No excuses, no more thoughts. Take action by knowing where your things come from and purchase/demand products every time possible that do not exploit and enslave the good people who provide them for you. While the rest of you "think" about it, I can't even bring myself to go to a chain grocery store anymore.
As for the film itself, it's well made. The video is good. The audio is good. The emotional content is strong, but not too strong. It reminds me of "Super Size Me" and "Fast Food Nation". It's not as entertaining as "Super Size Me", but it's not as pathologically over-the-top as "Fast Food Nation" (which I really disliked).
As for the subject matter, the problem is systemic. The film clearly shows that Americans are willing to pay a fair price, but Ethiopians aren't being paid a fair price. The problem is somewhere in the middle. Clearly, there are too many middle men. I think the multi-nationals are also part of the problem. Capitalism starts to break down when you have monopolies and oligarchies. (By the way, if you look at how many millions of people died in Communist China because of communal farming, Communism is absolutely not the answer!) The film also hints at unfair trade regulations won by members of the European Union and enforced by the World Trade Organizations--smaller nations like Ethiopia aren't getting a fair say, so they're getting shafted.
The saddest part is that the Ethiopians are starving. We keep sending them aid (our hearts are in the right place!), but what they really want is to work and be paid a decent price for their work. These are people who just want to put food on the table and send their children to school in the hope of a brighter future.
I think the moral of the story is 1) buy fair trade coffees 2) problems like this are deep and systemic 3) Ethiopia needs our payers.
I am sure that the makers of this film had nothing but good intentions in bringing to light the plight of the Ethiopian coffee farmers. That being said, they missed the point. The film is a blame game on the free market system. However, the free market hasn't been a truly free market for a very, very long time. Starvation isn't caused by a lack of food in this world. Starvation is caused by regulations that don't allow for distribution of the surpluses. In other words, starvation is caused by governments with their own preservation of power in mind. In the same way, the free market system has been hijacked by a few powerful groups that are motivated by self interest. The co-op group that the film maker follows in the film is more of what the free market system was meant to be. Cut out the middlemen/market and allow for fair trade is a constant underlaying cry of the film.
You can really see the corruption of the free market principals when the film takes a short trek to a WTO meeting. It is not a true free market when it is only open to a few. Add to this the ability of those few groups in power to subsidize themselves to remain in power and you have a system that forces a giant chasm between the lives of an African farmer and a New Yorker in sitting in a Fourbucks (oops, sorry. I mean a Starbucks). In addition, we have a general lack of knowledge, or maybe even consideration, of where our consumable products originate.
So, in conclusion, I give the film props for bringing to light the unfair burden put on third world farmers but I have to weigh that against the obvious anti-capitalism bend. To change the lives of the farmers, you don't fight the market, you have to change the market. That is what the farmers are trying to do. They have to fight themselves in the process as some farmers plow under coffee in favor of narcotics to make enough money to feed their families. Changing the addiction of one country for the addiction of your own will only make the problems worse though. In the end, the answer to the hunger in Africa is not aide, it's trade.
Very telling story on the way a few in the world capitalizes on the majority. If we were to pay $3.00, instead of $2.07, for a Vente Ethiopian coffee, would that change anything. What if a company based in Ethiopia were to challenge Starbucks, that would really change things. Just a thought, but wonderful movie.
What a great documentary about a awful circumstances. I love my coffee and I love farmers. I try to buy good coffee and I try to buy coffee from good sources. I wish that actually helped.
The filmmaker tells the circumstances of a fair trade co-op in Ethiopia. The subjects are charismatic, the interviews are well done and stitched together well. Towards the end there is some context provided to the broader societal and economic issues in Ethiopia and Africa. I wish this part was tied in a little better. It was good info but it just didn't mesh quite well with an otherwise excellent film.
A wonderful film that makes me question way I fulfill my addiction.