Movies That Matter at UUF Explores Coffee Trade

Black Gold, a sobering documentary that exposes the inequities of the coffee business, is the September movie in the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship’s monthly “Movies That Matter” series. The film will be shown Tuesday, September 15 at 7 pm.

The coffee trade is a $50 billion industry that continues to shortchange Ethiopia’s indigent farmers, inspiring fair trade crusader Tadesse Meskela to take action. The film follows Meskela’s tireless journey around the globe with the hopes of initiating change. The main focus is on the struggles of the Oromio coffee farmers cooperative in Ethiopia.

World coffee prices plunged in 1989 when the United States stopped supporting the International Coffee Agreement, a Cold War-era pact that had stabilized prices. Today, the major players in setting prices are huge international companies like Kraft and Nestle, and commodities markets in New York and London. Coffee is the second most heavily traded commodity in the world, with water coming in third. Ethiopian farmers pretty much take what they are given, or get out of the business.

In truth, the problem is more complicated than the film lets on, with both pros and cons for the fair trade movement. The solution advocated in the film isn’t a fix-all, but movement is still a powerful tool that empowers coffee farmers by teaching them the benefits of cooperative organization and action.

The “Movies That Matter” series is held on the third Tuesday of every month. The screenings are free and open to the public. For more information, visit