Two great documentaries

Last week I saw two great documentaries.

The first, Black Gold I first heard of this film while at Sundance, but unfortunately missed the opportunity to see it. It is about fair trade coffee with a focus on those in developing nations who farm it. While the film was definitely well done, and was even more powerful because the ‘star’ of the documentary was present at the screening to answer questions, I felt the film did not answer enough questions. For instance, they blame recent WTO decisions for the fall in the market price of coffee but fail to elaborate on what the decision was. They also talk a lot about WTO reform but beyond saying deals are done behind close doors and briefly mentioning milk subsidies they don’t talk about the specific reform they are looking for. I also left feeling that they didn’t address some of the basic supply-demand issues behind the low prices. Yes, prices are low, but why? Clearly there is a lot of supply, but for such low prices there must also be a glut of supply. Why is that? Why don’t farmers grow other crops? Is there a high cost of switching? What did these farmers grow before Starbucks?

I don’t want to discourage anyone from seeing this film. It really is good and raises not just a lot of questions about coffee (which I don’t consume) but about commodities in general (sugar, diamonds,…). It also raises some good questions about the business of refining commodities and points out the inequities in the supply chain.

The second, Who killed the electric car? was very well done and I left convinced that my current car will be the last 100% gasoline car I drive. I don’t know what else to say but go watch this movie when it comes to your city.

Next up on my to watch list is Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.

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