Monday, January 29, 2007

Buna and Big Business

$1.10: Amount per pound of coffee that growers receive after deducting costs

$160: Amount that retailers can make on a pound of coffee

Those who know me know that I'm a big fan of Stephanie Black's Life and Debt. It's a stunning film that addresses trade issues and their impact on Jamaica. The brilliance of the film is that it provides a direct connection between the real people who have been impacted so proundly negatively by world trade policy and those who come to vacation and experience overwhelming beauty of Jamaica. Utilizing a narrative adapted by Jamaica Kincaid, from her pointed and poignant essay on tourism in Antigua, A Small Place, the film attempts to break down the barrier between the resort compound and the reality many lives lived beyond those walls.

If globalization is supposedly about linking countries together in some economic matrix of sorts, Life and Debt presents an analysis of just how and for whom these linked relationships work. It's a moving piece of film making that forces the view to recognize his or her place in the matrix and encouraging awareness as a means to work towards change. Also, it's got a wicked soundtrack.

Much to my absolute and total delight, a new movie looks to provide an analysis of these very same relationships. In the director's statement for Black Gold, a film about coffee growers in Ethiopia, Starbucks, and supposed fair trade policies, the filmmakers write the following: "Our hope was to make a film that forced us, as western consumers, to question some of our basic assumptions about our consumer lifestyle and its interaction with the rest of the world." Now that's what I'm talking about.

It's all about making connections, and Black Gold looks like it'll do this. Now bring the film to Montreal already. Until that happens, watch the trailer.


Not surprisingly, Starbucks has issued statements addressing some of the points raised in the film, and they've done this using the warm-and-fuzzy tool that is youtube.

Guardian Article on Black Gold and the response

1 comment:

Alicia said...

For those of you who are interested in the issue of Fair trade, there is a powerful documentary out called “Black Gold,” that documents the lives of Ethiopian coffee farmers and clearly demonstrates why all of us should be asking for Fair Trade coffee. The film was recently released in the theater but is now available to the public on DVD via California Newsreel. You can read more about the documentary or pick up a copy of it here at