Regardless of where you catch a screening of the documentary Black Gold, you'll leave with the same feeling – that one person can make a difference. Directed by Marc and Nick Francis, this film focuses on the underdeveloped country of Ethiopia and the plight of the overworked and underpaid coffee farmer.
Early on, it's made clear why this film is so aptly named Black Gold. That is, that coffee is so valued in both the European and US markets that it's today's gold standard. As the filmmakers follow Oromia Coffee Farmers Co-Operative Union's General Manager Tadasso Meskela on his travels from the rural coffee farms in southern Ethiopia to a coffee conference in Seattle, it's apparent how valuable coffee is.
In Seattle, he explains to anyone willing to listen that changing the lives of third-world families is possible if you're willing to make a conscious effort. "It's the consumer that makes the difference," he says promoting Kilenseo Mokonisa coffee. "You have the ability to give families a decent life. You just need to think before you drink."
Education in every sense of the word seems to be the key message of first-time filmmakers Marc and Nick Francis. Black Gold shows the low wage earners struggling to educate themselves, as well as Meskela educating grocers and vendors on how coffee co-ops benefit communities. "Education is the Route to Development," a sign says at a community school – proving to the viewer that the money returned from the profits obtained through the Fair Trade market is truly beneficial.
Black Gold clearly illustrates how powerful the Fair Trade movement is – showing us how long-term business relationships between buyers and sellers like Meskela bring support to farmers and set higher global standards. You see, buying Fair Trade certified coffee like that from Oromia Coffee Farms, helps small farmers secure a higher return.
The Francis brothers ultimately suggest through Meskela's travels to London, Seattle and New York that everyone benefits from Fair Trade and coffee co-ops. US aid to Africa decreases because farmers can now feed their families through higher wages, while consumers enjoy fresher coffee because there are more farmers working, earning a livable wage.
And if the filmmakers' statistics are true, and you drink one of the 2 billion cups of coffee consumed per day, then why not spread the wealth?
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