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Black Gold

Distributed by California Newsreel, Order Dept., PO Box 2284, South Burlington, VT 05407; 877-811-7495 (toll free)
Produced by Marc Francis and Nick Francis
Directed by Marc Francis and Nick Francis
DVD, color, 78 min.
Jr. High - Adult
African Studies, Business, Economics

Reviewed by Michael J. Coffta, Business Librarian, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

Highly Recommended  Highly Recommended   
Date Entered: 5/9/2007

With the collapse of the International Coffee Agreement in 1989, Ethiopian coffee farmers’ revenues have fallen to a 30 year low. Black Gold exhaustively examines the plight of Ethiopian coffee farmers. Without timely information, representation, or unified power against the four multinationals who control the global coffee market, these farmers are forced to either sell their produce at intolerably low prices, or switch to other crops, including narcotics, to manage a living.

The film visually jars the emotions. Stills of text inform the audience of mind-blowing statistics on coffee production and consumption. Transitions from the plight of farmers to images of the wealthy drinking their coffee, draw the audience in. The film successfully examines the complexity of the situation. It is not merely play on the audience’s emotions, but systematically proceeds through the layers of the farmers’ plight. The audience sees the conditions in which they live and learns how low prices affect the community, its schools, level of healthcare, etc. while learning how coffee prices are established in New York. The audience follows the efforts of an Ethiopian emissary, who has staged a multi-pronged campaign to co-op farmers, earn recognition for the quality of Ethiopian coffees, and personally push for sales. The subtitles offer a great deal of help in reaching the heart of this film.

Black Gold comes highly recommended for all audiences for its compelling representation of the macro and micro implications of globalization in Ethiopia. The documentary makes the firm point that the story of Black Gold is analogous to the dire situation facing banana farmers in developing countries, and other underrepresented, under compensated sectors.