Independent Lens (2006)
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Critic Reviews for Independent Lens
If that $2 cup of Starbucks didn't jolt you awake, this documentary by Marc and Nick Francis might do the trick.
Black Gold moves at an inexorable pace, painstakingly building a case until suddenly it looms very large and casts an even longer shadow.
... a by turns poetic and hard-hitting critique of the global coffee industry ...
The lesson is clear: The system is broken and needs repair, and educating consumers is part of the solution.
More dynamism and knowledge in the telling and fewer cheap shots at young Starbucks workers in Seattle wouldn't have gone amiss.
Audience Reviews for Independent Lens
Well-produced, but all the images of poverty were not enough to make me forget basic macroeconomics.
"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
This was an interesting documentary on a subject I know nothing about. I am not a coffee drinker and have only had 3 or 4 cups in my life, and once was because I was choking. I just don?t like the flavor. And I think the whole coffee culture in the US is a farce. However, that doesn?t mean I am not interested in what is happening behind the scenes. I do think it is interesting that the idea of Chat keeping people going in Ethiopia, where this doc takes place, and how coffee keeps so many people going in the US is funny. However, I think this doc might have gotten stuck on what wasn?t the bigger issue here, or maybe should have just picked a more refined narrative. The fact that Africa is being screwed over by Europe and the US is a huge topic. To point it out through coffee is good. But this wanders too many other places. If it was more about how the farmer?s are desperate and how it is decimating communities and families, that would have been good. Just following the rep around the world would have been interesting. Jumbling it all together quickly didn?t amount to as much as it could have. Still, stop buying and drinking coffee unless it is from a reputable source, which isn?t Starbucks or many other big brands.
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