(San Francisco, CA)— Ever wonder who grows the beans in your morning jolt of java? In their riveting, critically acclaimed BLACK GOLD, filmmaking brothers Nick and Marc Francis explore the complexities of the international coffee trade and introduce viewers to Tadesse Meskela, the General Manager of the Oromo Coffee Farmers Co-operative Union, and a tireless advocate for fair trade for Ethiopian farmers. BLACK GOLD will have its television premiere on the Emmy® Award–winning PBS series Independent Lens, hosted by Terrence Howard, on Tuesday, April 10, 2007, at 10pm (check local listings). Focusing on money this April, Independent Lens broadcasts will also include CHINA BLUE (April 3), another film that examines the impact of globalization, this time focusing on the people who make our jeans. Rounding out the month is the acclaimed ENRON: The Smartest Guys in the Room (April 24).
Multinational coffee companies now rule our strip malls, supermarkets and urban corners, and dominate an industry worth over $80 billion, making coffee the most valuable trading commodity in the world after oil. But while we pay high prices for our lattes and cappuccinos, the price paid to coffee farmers remains so low that many have been forced to abandon their fields. No where is this paradox more evident than in Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. Here we meet Tadesse Meskela, a man on a mission to save his 75,000 struggling coffee farmers from bankruptcy. As his farmers strive to harvest some of the highest quality beans on the international market, Tadesse travels the world in an attempt to find buyers willing to pay a fair price.
From the farms of Ethiopia, where workers earn less than 50 cents a day, the film travels to Seattle, for a tour through the history of Starbucks, and to a World Trade Organization summit, where angry African trade representatives complain about being excluded from negotiations and flatly reject the agreements imposed on them. When the filmmakers return to Ethiopia, they find the country in the grips of a famine. Coffee farmers, facing bankruptcy, have begun to replace their coffee fields with chat, a more profitable narcotic.
The answer is seemingly simple: if Africa’s share of world trade increased by only one percentage point, it would generate $70 billion a year, five times what the continent receives in aid. But it will take the education and concern of coffee’s consumers to force any change in the system.
To learn more about the film and the issues, visit the BLACK GOLD companion website (pbs.org/blackgold) which features detailed information on the film, including an interview with the filmmaker and links and resources pertaining to the film’s subject matter. The site also features a Talkback section for viewers to share their ideas and opinions, preview clips of the film, and more.
BLACK GOLD will be the featured April film for ITVS Community Cinema, the monthly screening series featuring upcoming selections from the Independent Lens season. Presented in partnership with local public television stations and leading community organizations, ITVS Community Cinema holds preview screenings in select markets across the country making a real contribution on a range of current social issues by connecting communities with organizations, information, and the opportunity to get involved. For more information, visit itvs.org/outreach/blackgold/.
Alphabetical Listing of On-Air Participants
Burte Arba, Coffee Farmer, Bule Hora, Southern Ethiopia
Alemayehu Abrahim, School Principal, Bule Hora, Southern Ethiopia
Jack Bigirwa, Ugandan delegate to WTO talks in Cancun
Barry Coates, World Development Movement (World Development Movement campaigns on international trade issues. Barry is now the Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand.)
Tamrat Giorgis, Editor of Ethiopian weekly business newspaper based in Addis Ababa
Jacques Habib, Aide Transparence; part of Senegalese delegation to WTO
Getachew Haile, Aid worker and agricultural expert working with the WFP in South and East Ethiopia
Dr. Ernesto Illy, Honorary Chairman, IllyCafe
Dr. Ahmed Mahamadi, Minister for Trade and Industry, Chad
Hon. Sam Mpasu MP, Minister of Commerce & Industry, Malawi
Tadesse Meskela, Manager of the Oromia Coffee Farmers Co-operative Union which represents over 74,000 coffee farmers
Joe O’Neill, Vice President, New York Board of Trade
Hon. Irene Ovonji-Odida MP, East African Legislative Assembly
Salvatore Piccolo, Vancouver Barista and competitor in World Barista Championship
Fabiana Pozar, Head coffee taster, Illycafe
Simon Wakefield, Wakefield and Company, Independent Coffee Importer, London
Robert Zoellick, Former US Trade Representative. Represented the U.S. at the WTO talks in Cancun
About the Filmmakers
Marc Francis and Nick Francis are independent documentary filmmakers based in London, as well as brothers. They began their career making short documentaries about social, global, and human rights issues before developing feature-length productions for international audiences. Their work has been supported by the Sundance Institute, the Channel 4 British Documentary Film Foundation, and the UK Film Council. Their films include NUKE UK; BLACK GOLD premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
About Independent Lens
Independent Lens is an Emmy® Award-winning weekly series airing Tuesday nights at 10pm on PBS. Hosted this season by Terrence Howard, the acclaimed anthology series features documentaries and a limited number of fiction films united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement and unflinching visions of their independent producers. Independent Lens features unforgettable stories about a unique individual, community or moment in history. Presented by ITVS, the series is supported by interactive companion websites, and national publicity and community engagement campaigns. Further information about the series is available at pbs.org/independentlens. Independent Lens is jointly curated by ITVS and PBS, and is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private corporation funded by the American people, with additional funding provided by PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts. The series producer is Lois Vossen.
The Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds and presents award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television, innovative new media projects on the Web and the Emmy® Award-winning weekly series Independent Lens on Tuesday nights at 10pm on PBS. ITVS is a miracle of public policy created by media activists, citizens and politicians seeking to foster plurality and diversity in public television. ITVS was established by a historic mandate of Congress to champion independently produced programs that take creative risks, spark public dialogue and serve underserved audiences. Since its inception in 1991, ITVS programs have revitalized the relationship between the public and public television, bringing TV audiences face-to-face with the lives and concerns of their fellow Americans. More information about ITVS can be obtained by visiting itvs.org. ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.
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