BLACK GOLD

By Shaianne Osterreich, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Economics at Ithaca College. Dr. Osterriech specializes in globalization, feminist and heterodox economics with an emphasis on South East Asia., March 20, 2022

Global Capitalism Critiqued

black gold

BLACK GOLD (2006)

In 2007, Tom Shevory asked me to be a discussant at the FLEFF screening of BLACK GOLD (2006) in the old Cinemapolis theater. At that time, I was part of the regular crew of Ithaca College faculty who screened FLEFF films in our courses. And, I had gone to many FLEFF screenings. But this was going to be my first experience speaking at a FLEFF event at Cinemapolis.  

Given my experiences with FLEFF, I figured that whenever Tom or Patty Zimmermann asked me to do something, I should definitely say yes. As it turned out, I was right.

Standing in the front of a jam-packed audience that had just watched one of the best documentary films yet made about the devastation of global capitalism was incredibly exciting. In my memory the room was abuzz! 

BLACK GOLD focuses on the power that cooperatives can have in their fierce fight for survival against global financialization and unchecked oligopolies. The film follows Tadesse Meskela, the head of a very large Ethiopian coffee cooperative, as he traces the global value chain of coffee production, distribution, roasting, and retailing. 

BLACK GOLD brilliantly illustrates the blatant inequities generated from empire in scenes that feature the World Trade Organization, the NY Stock Exchange, and the coffee connoisseur. We see the farmers in their dignity and desperation as well as the looking away of global retailers when coffee producers are facing famine. 

Above all, the film shows the power generated from the hard work of running a cooperative of 74,000 coffee farmers. The courage of African trade representatives standing up to Europe and American corporate lobbyists is an inspirational sight.

Osterreich

Shaianne Osterreich, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Economics at Ithaca College. Dr. Osterriech specializes in globalization, feminist and heterodox economics with an emphasis on South East Asia.

I have screened BLACK GOLD in my classes almost every year since I discussed it with that packed theatre. 

I have been so incredibly honored to be a part of FLEFF. I am always excited when spring comes and I get to moderate discussions with filmmakers and audiences.  Some recent favorites include REMITTANCE (2015), an amazing film that captures the many complexities of the global care chain in Asia, especially its impact on women as workers and as mothers. Another favorite is DYING FOR GOLD (2018), a brilliant documentary that uses new and found footage to trace the effects of past and present colonial extraction and its disastrous health effects. 

FLEFF’s influence inspired me to teach a 1-credit course on Globalization in Film for several years. This class included BLACK GOLD, of course, but also LIFE AND DEBT (2001) John Sayles’ CASA DE LOS BABYS, and PRETTY DIRTY THINGS (2002) among many other great films. 

Thank you to Tom and Patty and FLEFF for including me all these years. The spirit of creativity, engagement, creation, and critique engendered by FLEFF is so very special. 

I have been blessed to be a part of it. 

FLEFF: A DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENT