Black Gold

Critics Consensus

Black Gold is an eye-opening account of the winners and losers in the global coffee trade.

84%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 50

84%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,854
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Movie Info

Fifteen million Ethiopians make a living related to coffee, which accounts for 67 percent of the country's foreign exports. Yet as profits soar for coffee sales, the farmers producing the beans continue to receive minimal payments, anywhere from 12 to 25 cents for every kilo picked. Businessman Tadesse Meskela tries to help raise the impoverished standard of living by negotiating, on behalf of 70,000 farmers, with coffee roasters willing to pay a fairer price for their labor.

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Critic Reviews for Independent Lens

All Critics (50) | Top Critics (24) | Fresh (42) | Rotten (8)

  • While the film is quick to posit fair trade as a solution, it fails to answer why, even with Meskela's admirable initiatives, his coffee farmers still struggle to buy shoes.

    June 8, 2007 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Wendy Ide

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • If you don't buy Fair Trade coffee after this you never will.

    June 8, 2007 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • True, fair trade coffee is not the newest story around, but Black Gold still makes for arresting viewing.

    June 8, 2007 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    David Mattin

    BBC.com
    Top Critic
  • While it may prompt some to think again next time they're in Starbucks, this astute insight into the coffee business is better at lauding the good guys than taking the multinationals to task for the iniquities of the global economy.

    June 8, 2007 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • If that $2 cup of Starbucks didn't jolt you awake, this documentary by Marc and Nick Francis might do the trick.

    January 12, 2007 | Full Review…
  • Black Gold moves at an inexorable pace, painstakingly building a case until suddenly it looms very large and casts an even longer shadow.

    January 11, 2007 | Rating: 4.5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Independent Lens

  • Apr 13, 2011
    "Black Gold" is an earnest documentary about an attempt to raise the prices paid to coffee farmers in Ethopia who are paid cents on the dollars. What the documentary does especially well is demolish the notion that paying farmers more will result in higher prices here in the West. Tadesse Meskela who manages a cooperative union has a simple idea to just eliminate the middleman and bring the product directly to markets in the West. Of course, that's not as easy as it sounds since the coffee market is controlled mostly by four multinationals, Kraft, Nestle, Proctor & Gamble and Sara Lee, with prices being set in New York and London while the World Trade Organization works behind closed doors to the benefit of western countries. Tadesse Meskela's hard work is absolutely necessary to make the coffee farmers self-sufficient due to the dangerously low standard of living in rural Ethiopia, as there is not enough money currently for even basic services including education. But in trying to educate the viewer about its cause, the documentary dumps all of the relevant information early on, instead of forming a narrative following the coffee from harvest to brewing to drinking. Information could have been better provided throughout with a judicious use of talking heads. In fact, the approach "Black Gold" takes is haphazard at times with some strange tangents like the World Barista Championships as the documentary misses a valuable opportunity to educate when it talks to the baristas in Seattle. And sometimes a little confrontation is good for the soul
    Walter M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 20, 2010
    Interesting argument for raising the price of coffee paid to farmers, by looking at a co-operative in Ethiopia. The sections talking to baristas and other people in service, though a good addition to the film, felt a bit disjointed. It would have been interesting to see production in other countries than Ethiopia for comparison, but nevertheless it makes its point without crying or shouting.
    meril l Super Reviewer

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