The Global Banquet: Politics of Food

The Global Banquet exposes globalization’s profoundly damaging effect on our food system in terms that are understandable to the non-specialist. It debunks several underlying myths about global hunger:

  • That hunger results from scarcity;
  • That small countries don’t know how to feed themselves; and
  • That only market-driven, chemically-based, industrial agriculture can feed the world.

This film reveals how agribusiness squeezes out small farmers and how trade liberalization undercuts subsistence farming—in the U.S. as well as in the developing world. It demonstrates how food security is linked to social development and how women, in particular, are affected by that. And it links factory farming and the alteration and patenting of life forms to degradation of the natural environment.

Through interviews with farmers, policy analysts, and international activists, The Global Banquetexamines the ethical questions at the heart of the globalization debate. Beyond that, it shows how farmers, laborers, environmentalists, animal-rights activists, church groups, and students—worldwide—are mobilizing to address the situation.

James Goldstone Award for Excellence in Filmmaking (Vermont International Film Festival)

Cine Golden Eagle Award

U.S. International Film & Video Festival Award for Creative Excellence

Ongoing airings on PBS, Link-TV, and cable stations in the U.S.

Screenings and Festivals
United Nations Film Festival

Vermont International Film Festival

U.S. International Film and Video Festival

How to use this film:
The Global Banquet is a resource for families and community groups concerned about the globalization of food. It also offers a fresh perspective to high-school and college classes on subjects related to fair trade, social justice, animal rights, science and technology, and protection
of the natural environment. With its companion Discussion Guide, the film encourages a deeper look at:

  • How government subsidies, corporate agricultural practices, and extremist free-trade policies widen the gap between rich and poor—how low-cost food leaves people hungry;
  • The ethical and environmental consequences of factory farming, pesticide use, and genetic engineering;
  • How a competitive food economy distorts our relationship to the land and to one another;
  • How small-scale production using organic and alternative methods actually increases yield while supporting democracy, community, and cultural and biological diversity; and
  • How a grassroots solidarity movement is bringing people together, worldwide, to reclaim their power and their rightful place in the larger web of life.

For additional information on globalization and hunger, we recommend the following websites:
Alternative Farming Systems

Bread for the World

Debt Relief Now

Food First

Global Exchange

Heifer International

International Forum on Globalization

Oxfam International

Birdsong & Coffee: A Wake Up Call

“Coffee is the second most-traded commodity on earth next to oil. . . . What I’d like to see us do as a nation is to give as much attention to the issues of coffee growing as we do to oil production, because I think it’s just as important to the future sanity of the planet that we sustain this earth.”

– Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA)

Coffee drinkers will be astonished to learn that they hold in their hands the fate of farm families, farming communities, and entire ecosystems in coffee-growing regions like Costa Rica. In this film we hear from experts and students, from coffee lovers and bird lovers, and-most importantly-from coffee farmers themselves. We learn how their lives and ours are inextricably linked, economically and environmentally.

Part One lays out the background of the “coffee crisis,” a situation that Seth Petchers of Oxfam International describes as a “humanitarian catastrophe.” We meet the coffee growers of Agua Buena in the rainforest of southern Costa Rica, who welcome us into their homes and describe the labor-intensive process of shade-grown coffee production.

We learn that 25 million coffee growers worldwide are paid a mere pittance in the corporate marketplace while bearing the full brunt of global price fluctuations. When prices crash, farmers go hungry and their children are forced to drop out of school. Families are separated, communities disintegrate, and the land is cleared for other crops or other means of livelihood. Such clearing of the land–like the more “efficient” process of sun-grown coffee production–disrupts the ecosystem in ways that have deadly consequences for migratory songbirds, in particular, and for global ecological balance, in general.

Part Two offers simple but effective solutions based on what Robert Rice of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center calls the “natural organic connection that exists between farmers, coffee drinkers, and birds.” We meet students, faculty, and staff at the University of California Santa Cruz who introduce us to Fair Trade coffee. Simply by changing our buying habits, we coffee consumers can not only guarantee farmers a fair price, but also protect the songbirds that visit our backyard feeders–all while enjoying the highest-quality coffee, sent directly to our homes by the farmers themselves.

Interviewees in this film include:

  • Eight coffee farmers (and their families) from Costa Rica
  • Three student interns from the University of California Santa Cruz living in Costa Rica
  • Nick Babin, Director, Community Agroecology Network (CAN), UCSC
  • Haven Bourque, Director of Marketing, Transfair USA
  • Chris Bacon, Graduate student doing research among Nicaraguan coffee farmers
  • Rebecca Cole, Graduate student from UCSC working on reforestation project in Costa Rica
  • Kevin Danaher, Director, Global Exchange
  • Congressman Sam Farr, D-CA
  • Steve Gliessman and Robbie Jaffe, Co-founders, Community Agroecology Network (CAN), UCSC
  • Seth Petchers, Oxfam America
  • Russ Greenberg and Robert Rice, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
  • Aleah Lawrence Pine, West Coast Leadership – United Students for Fair Trade
  • Paul Ralston, CEO, Vermont Coffee Company
  • David Rothenberg, Musician and author of WHY BIRDS SING

Cine Golden Eagle Award

How to use this film:
Birdsong and Coffee links environmental and fair trade issues with ethical consumerism. With its companion Discussion Guide, the film explains:

  • The connection between coffee farmers, migratory birds, and us;
  • Why 25 million coffee farmers remain impoverished while we pay ever-higher prices for our coffee;
  • Why North-American songbirds are becoming harder and harder to find, even as tropical rainforests are shrinking at an alarming rate;
  • The difference between market designations such as Free Trade, Fair Trade, Fair Trade Organic, Bird-Friendly, and Fair Trade-Direct; and
  • How viewers of this film can become activists in their own communities, using their power as consumers to support Fair Trade as an alternative to the injustices of today’s global coffee market.

The film is ideal for bird lovers; environmental and fair trade activists; and high-school and college classes studying history, economics, biology, environmental sciences, ethics, and social justice. It can support dialogue in families and communities committed to nurturing global awareness, global justice, and a spirit of global cooperation.

Ordering coffee :
There are dozens of websites that direct you to vendors of Certified Fair Trade, Fair Trade-Direct, Fair Trade Organic, and Bird-Friendly coffees. Here are some suggestions:

Certified Fair Trade:
Fair Trade Federation

Fair Trade-Direct:
Community Agroecology Network (CAN Coffee, as seen in this film)
Global Exchange

Fair Trade Organic: 
Grounds for Change

Nectar of Life Coffee Company 

The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
The Rainforest Alliance

Ordering other products (coffee, tea, chocolate, or fruit):
For a general listing of Fair Trade vendors, see If you are not buying on-line, be sure to look for Certified Fair Trade, Certified Organic, and/or Certified Shade-Grown or Bird-Friendly labels in your supermarket or specialty shop. If your local market does not yet stock those, urge them to do so.

William Sloane Coffin: A Lover’s Quarrel With America

For half a century, The Reverend Dr. William Sloane Coffin has stood as a force for progressive religion, social justice, and peace and sanity in place of war and nuclear madness. At a time when power tempts the U.S. to follow a foreign policy aimed at world domination, he speaks as a contemporary prophet in calling us “to listen to our better angels.”

In this 30-minute conversation and profile, Bill Coffin addresses:

  • the ethics and politics of the war in Iraq and U.S. Middle-East policy,
  • current plans on the part of the U.S. to develop new nuclear weapons, and
  • a National Security Strategy that would have the U.S. rule the world by force.

With characteristic eloquence and clarity, he reminds us:

“The axis of evil is not Iraq, North Korea, and Iran. A much more formidable trio is environmental degradation, pandemic poverty, and a world awash with weapons. It would be very good American policy, for the sake of our national security, to wage war against global poverty. If we waged war seriously against global poverty, it would be very hard to recruit new terrorists.”

“We have a major responsibility to be faithful to God. Faith is a matter of being faithful, and faithful Jews, faithful Muslims, faithful Christians have a lot in common; and together, we could actually save the world.”

PBS and cable stations in the U.S.

How to use this film:
William Sloane Coffin: A Lover’s Quarrel With America is part of our Prophetic Voicesseries. As such, it sheds light on some of the ethical and philosophical challenges of our time, summoning us to a broader view that redefines our values, our priorities, and our place in the larger world.
The film is ideal for use in seminaries and theological schools, as well as in college and high-school courses on history, religion, philosophy, and political science. It encourages discussion of political, social, and economic issues from the standpoint of global justice.

The following organizations offer resources on nonviolent solutions to conflict at every level:

Buddhist Peace Fellowship

Center for Nonviolent Communication

Council on American Islamic Relations

Fellowship of Reconciliation

Jewish Peace Fellowship

Muslim Peace Fellowship

Peace Alliance Foundation