The 174-minute documentary Black Coffee (2005) is written and directed by Irene Angelico, whose previous work includes the documentary The Cola Conquest (1998) about the marketing of fizzy drinks.
Black Coffee was made in cooperation with Canadian broadcaster TVOntario and is consequently divided into three TV-friendly, 58-minute episodes. Episode one recounts the origin and spread of coffee around the world and its role in promoting liberty and creativity among first-world consumers but slavery and deprivation among third-world pickers. Episode two addresses the rise of coffee as a mass-produced, low-quality consumer good. While episode three explores alternatives to the historical boom-bust cycle of coffee production that has led to grinding poverty for coffee pickers, low-quality coffee for consumers, and significant environmental degradation.
Black Coffee is narration heavy. Written by Irene Angelico and Harold Crooks (The Corporation), and voiced by Helen King, the narration bridges talking heads and plays over archival material or the exquisite footage of contemporary coffee production and consumption around the world shot by directors of photography Marc Gadoury and German Gutierrez. The talking heads include authors, academics, and people within, or peripheral to the coffee industry, including itinerate pickers, peasant growers, plantation owners, brokers, commercial buyers, coffeehouse owners, baristas, consumers, trade officials, and activists.
Complementing the beautiful cinematography is a top-notch soundtrack and score. The score composed by Canadian musician Freeworm (a.k.a. Vincent Letellier) demonstrates a pleasingly eclectic mix of world music influences, but it's the terrific soundtrack that really impresses with a wide range of coffee-centric American tunes and world music. I most appreciated the inclusion of my favorite coffee tunes, the classic Java Jive and Bob Dylan's One More Cup of Coffee.
Non-English dialogue is accompanied by forced English subtitles. No other subtitle options are provided.
Black Coffee is recommended for fans of politically-progressive documentaries, and for coffee junkies. Of course this means it's highly recommended for politically-progressive coffee junkies who love documentaries.