I went to a different kind of film screening yesterday. Instead of the glitz and glamour of the red carpet, a hundred MPs, researchers and campaigners packed into a meeting room in Parliament to watch Black Gold.
Black Gold is a new film about the global coffee industry, telling the story of Ethiopian coffee farmers struggling to make a living, supplying coffee beans to some of the world’s largest companies. The star turn was Tadesse Meskela who runs a co-operative representing 69,000 coffee farmers from the country’s Oromia region.
The injustice of how international trade rules and multinational companies are stacked against the world’s poorest countries was absolutely clear. You buy your cappuccino tomorrow morning for £2, but the farmer in Ethiopia who grew the beans gets just 2p.
After the film Tadesse and Government Minister Gareth Thomas took questions. ‘What should I do?’ came up time and again, with answers ranging from ‘buy more fairtrade’, to ‘keep on campaigning’ and ‘lobby the Government about its trade policies’. Tadesse and his co-operative provided the best example of how we shouldn’t feel powerless in the face of big issues and powerful companies.
It struck me that even 10 years ago, it was unthinkable that a film about coffee farmers and global trade would pack out cinemas around the world and get the attention of busy MPs in the middle of the afternoon. Even Tony Blair had to sit up and take note, meeting Tadesse at Number 10 later in the day.