Black Gold (4 stars)

  • The List
  • 4 June 2007

(U) 77min


Petroleum and coffee had no value a few centuries ago. Now they are at the very heart of our markets and lust for conquest. It seems, however, that conscience rather than coffee should be what is keeping us awake at night. Nick and Mark Francis’ riveting, galvanizing film attempts to underline the paradox that joins the $80bn global coffee industry with the impoverished birthplace of the bean - Ethiopia - where farmers toil for the minimum of return.

The film takes its lead from the saintly activities of Coffee Cooperative spokesperson Tadesse Meskela, the one man on a mission to save his 74,000 struggling coffee farmers from bankruptcy. As his farmers strive to harvest some of the highest quality coffee beans on the international market, Tadesse travels the world in an attempt to find buyers willing to pay a fair price. What he actually finds is the enormous power of the multinational players that dominate the world’s coffee trade. It is a marketplace where New York commodity traders and the double dealing WTO ministers rule OK.

There’s no grandstanding here, just an intelligent and ordered agenda to illuminate some crucial truths about that daily cup of java. It is not difficult to see why this excellent documentary left audiences cowed and the local Starbucks empty at last year’s Sundance Film Festival.

(Paul Dale)

Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Fri 8 Jun. GFT, Glasgow, Tue 26-Thu 28 Jun.

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