Hugh Jackman launched Laughing Man Coffee, his Antipodean-inspired café, in Tribeca in 2011, following a trip to origin. Dukale’s Dream is a detailed documentary chronicling how the actor—a self-professed “coffee snob”—became involved in the industry at large, starting with his friendship with a farmer named Dukale.
The proverbial (and literal) seeds of the project were sown in 2009, when Jackman and his wife Deborra-Lee Furness, both actors and native Australians, traveled to Ethiopia on behalf of World Vision Australia. The couple was invited, as donors and public figures, to witness first-hand the community development organization’s efforts to eradicate poverty in the coffee-growing country.
In Yirgacheffe, they met Dukale and his family. They developed a relationship with the young farmer while spending time on his farm, learning about the difficulties of a coffee grower’s life. Before they left, Dukale and Jackman planted seedlings together, naming them after Furness and Jackman’s children.
Affected by the meeting, the actor returned to New York as an advocate for fair trade, eventually opening Laughing Man. The café buys Dukale’s beans at a fair price, and serves them to the steady stream of New Yorkers who cram into the tiny shop for flat whites. The young farmer’s story is prominent. At the end of last year, Laughing Man partnered up with Keurig, which now distributes Dukale’s coffees all over the world.
The film is special for a few reasons. The influences of fair trade are visible in Dukale’s day-to-day. His efforts to lower the farm’s carbon footprint through shade-growing, to keep his kids in school, and to keep his family fed speak to the plights of famers around the world, many who have been less successful. It’s a similar vision to other recent documentaries (A Film About Coffee, The Way Back to Yarasquin), but with Jackman’s involvement, its not just coffee professionals who are watching. In a recent interview with Time, Jackman compares his brand to the late Paul Newman’s, explaining that his efforts stem from advocacy as well as entrepreneurialism. And having a famous face on a cause can push it to the tipping point.
Dukale’s Dream took home a number of awards on the festival circuit last year, but the goal of the film, as with most documentaries, wasn’t to impress critics. The story is an important one, a heartwarming metaphor representing the greater issues behind fair trade. After airing in select theaters in June, it will be available for all on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon Prime this month.
—Regan Crisp is Fresh Cup’s associate editor.