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Black Gold - Review

Tadesse Meskela in Black Gold

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

BRITISH directors Marc and Nick Francis have decided to lift the lid on some harsh truths on the coffee industry but while Black Gold certainly contains some startling facts it’s not as hard-hitting as it probably needs to be.

The film concentrates on the efforts of Ethiopian Tadesse Meskela to secure a better trade deal for the 70,000 members of his Oromo Coffee Farmers co-op who are otherwise faced with poverty and starvation.

And it travels from the African continent to Europe and America, interviewing people along the way as it drops in some startling facts and figures.

Ethiopia, for example, is the birthplace of coffee and 15 million people depend on it for their survival.

But while globally more than two billion cups of coffee are drunk every day, the farmers who help supply this $80 billion industry seldom get to reap the benefits of their hard endeavour.

Coffee bean pickers, for example, earn less than half a dollar a day for their eight-hour slog, while communities that were reliant on the coffee industry can no longer afford blackboards for their schools and are running out of money to pay teachers.

In the worst affected areas, children are forced to attend therapeutic feeding centres in order to avoid starvation.

This comes at a time when the price of coffee paid to farmers is at a 30-year low.

Shameful facts indeed but while Black Gold isn’t afraid to expose the situation in Africa, it could have benefited from taking a harder look at the corporations behind such sickening exploitation.

Italian coffee giant Illy is featured as an example of a company that does trade fairly, outside of the dominant New York and London companies, but the likes of Starbucks really aren’t pressed hard enough (they declined the opportunity to participate and any interviews are snatched from smug employees instead).

A few more facts and figures at just how much these companies are profiting at the farmers’ expense may have hit home harder, especially since Starbucks in particular is now making movies and records based on its continued success.

That said, Black Gold should make coffee drinkers think twice before ordering their next latte or capuccino even though caffeine addicts will probably need more persuading before they really consider breaking the habit and making a stand.

Certificate: U
Running time: 78mins

  1. Every time you purchase a T-shirt or buy a child’s toy, you are supporting exploitation wages in Third World countries. This is hardly unique to coffee.

    That, I found, was one of this documentary’s biggest flaws.

    swag    Jun 7    #
  2. It’s exactly the attitude of people like swag that will help to ensure this situation continues. Black Gold casts fresh light on African exploitation and it’s now up to us to do our bit to ensure the situation stops…

    James    Jun 8    #
  3. Darn it, and I enjoyed my morning latte at Starbucks…

    Andy    Jun 8    #