Hugh Jackman’s New Film Shows You How to Save the World, One Cup of Coffee at a Time

The documentary follows the actor on a trip to Ethiopia, where an unexpected friendship with a coffee farmer alters his view of the industry.
May 30, 2015·
Celeste Hoang is the Film & TV Integration Editor for TakePart.

If you typically grab your cup of joe from any old coffee shop, actor Hugh Jackman has a message for you: How you choose the coffee you buy has some very real links to global poverty, and making the choice to purchase fair trade can help support some of the poorest families in the world.

Jackman learns this firsthand in the new documentary Dukale’s Dream, which follows him and his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, on a 2009 trip to Ethiopia—the birthplace of coffee—as ambassadors for humanitarian aid organization World Vision. The duo meet with coffee farmers, tour community development projects within the Yirgacheffe region, and, along the way, form a close bond with a 27-year-old coffee farmer named Dukale. A father of five, Dukale toils on the land every day alongside other farmers, all of whom anxiously await finding out how much they’ll earn as the price of their coffee beans is later negotiated with foreign buyers.

“Coffee buyers will come in and offer well below market values, and [the farmers] can’t afford to go anywhere else,” Jackman says in the film, which opens in select theaters June 5.

Adds Furness about daily life for many struggling families in the country: “They wake up, and basically, the agenda for the day is to get food.”

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Americans spend $40 billion on coffee every year, with 54 percent of U.S. adults drinking at least one cup every day. But Ethiopia remains one of the least developed countries, with an average income of $255 per year. The film’s mission? To create awareness that something as simple as consumer choice can change that.

“Most Americans are sometimes turned off by these larger, save-the-world concepts, but the idea is that market-based solutions let us choose who we support and the impact we can have,” director Josh Rothstein tells TakePart. “[Its] this idea that with something as simple as a cup of coffee, you can address some very powerful issues.

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While Jackman returned to New York City and began to promote the purchase of fair trade coffee—speaking at the United Nations and urging world leaders to support farmers in developing countries—he still felt he could do more.

In 2011, Jackman launched his own coffee company, Laughing Man, which sells coffee and tea produced directly by farmers from around the world; 100 percent of the profits go to the Laughing Man Foundation, which Jackman created to support educational programs, community development, and social entrepreneurs around the world. Included in the line: Dukale’s Dream, a collection of fresh coffee beans from Dukale’s own farm.

“This guy just welcomed foreigners into his home in such a beautiful way,” Rothstein says, adding that very little of the documentary was planned beforehand, and the close friendship between Jackman and Dukale developed organically and instantly. “The Ethiopian people—there was a tremendous sense of warmth and hospitality. Dukale and Hugh in some ways have a similar energy to them: Both are very upbeat and lead with a smile. There was this sort of immediate connection.”