Brewing 'Black Gold'

Friday, December 8, 2006

Brothers Marc and Nick Francis deliver a by turns poetic and hard-hitting critique of the global coffee industry with "Black Gold." Traveling from the verdant coffee farms of Ethiopia to the manic trading floors of the New York stock market, from the World Trade Organization conference in Cancun, Mexico, to the caffeinated epicenter of the Starbucks chain in Seattle, "Black Gold" guarantees that you'll never look at your tall no-foam cap with a double shot the same way again.

The Francises make their case -- that Ethiopian farmers are being ripped off by corporate middlemen and the $80 billion world market -- through an exceptionally sympathetic and charismatic main character. Ethiopian activist Tadesse Meskela works tirelessly with a coffee growers' cooperative trying to get farmers a livable wage for their delicious and highly coveted beans. During the film's most painful sequence, his efforts and Ethiopia's persistent, crushing famine are juxtaposed with the vapidly cheerful corp-speak of two Starbucks baristas.

Beautifully shot and edited with swift efficiency, "Black Gold" joins a cadre of recent films that shine a welcome light on how the stuff we buy gets to us and, more to the point, how the price of that stuff often has little to do with its real cost.

-- Ann Hornaday

Black Gold Unrated, 78 minutes Contains nothing objectionable. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.

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