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Black Gold
Directed by Mark Francis, Nick Francis
Produced by Christopher Hird
Written by Mark Francis, Nick Francis
Starring Tadesse Meskela
Editing by Hugh Williams
Distributed by California Newsreel
Release date(s) 2006 (USA)
Running time 78 min.
Language English

Black Gold is a 2006 documentary film about the international coffee trade and its ramifications for the farmers who grow coffee. It was directed by two British brothers, Marc and Nick Francis.


The film focuses on the coffee growers of the Oromia Region of southern and western Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. It follows Tadesse Meskela, the General Manager of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Cooperative Union, as he visits coffee-growing regions in Sidamo and Oromia (including the Kilenso Mokonisa Cooperative in the Bure Hora woreda in the Borena Zone of the Oromia Region), as well as a coffee processing center, a coffee auction house, and his union's headquarters in Addis Ababa. He also travels to England and the United States in an effort to promote Ethiopian coffee by eliminating the numerous middlemen. There is also a scene where coffee farmers pray to God for a higher price, which was filmed at the Negele Gorbitu Cooperative, located near Irgachefe in the Abaya woreda of the Borena Zone. The Ethiopian footage was filmed on two occasions (in 2003 and 2005), for six weeks each time.[1] The Ethiopian coffee farmers speak about their lives, with one explaining that he is cutting down his coffee plants and planting chat (a plant containing cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant) instead, due to the low price he is getting for coffee due to the explosion in coffee farmers across the globe, and the comparatively higher price he can get for chat.

The film also includes footage of the New York Board of Trade, a commodity trading floor in New York City, where the "C" international benchmark price of coffee is set each business day based on supply and demand, and explores the effects that these international prices (which by 2006 were at an all-time low) have on Ethiopian coffee growers. Other footage was shot at the first Starbucks and the World Barista Championship at the 2005 Specialty Coffee Association of America conference in Seattle; and at a café and the Illy coffee company in Trieste, Italy. These scenes stand in stark contrast to the footage of the impoverished conditions faced by the Ethiopian coffee farmers and their families.

Although Starbucks, Sara Lee, Procter & Gamble, Kraft, and Nestlé - the world's largest sellers of coffee - are mentioned in the film, all five companies declined invitations to be interviewed for the film.

The film's budget was US$760,000.[2]


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