Film Review: Dukale's Dream

Hugh Jackman makes us think twice about our cup of morning Joe in this well-meaning doc about sustainable coffee.
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Superstar Hugh Jackman is one concerned world citizen. An ambassador for World Vision Australia, which aids poor nations, in Dukale's Dream he and his wife Deborah-Lee Furness travel to Ethiopia in 2009. There, he meets the titular figure of his film, Dukale, a coffee farmer whose work has been diminished by the climate change brought about by deforestation. World Vision provided his village with technology to improve conditions, and we see Jackman happily toiling alongside his genial, lithely handsome new friend, shoveling manure and actually planting the seeds of two coffee trees he names after his children, Oscar and Ava. A key improvement is a methane converter providing bio-gas fueled by that shoveled manure, which reduces both deforestation and dangerous wood smoke inhalation. 

Deeply inspired, Jackman returns to New York and speaks at the United Nations about his experience with Dukale, who'd previously never heard of the movie star. He also takes it upon himself to question various coffee drinkers and baristas around town about the need to switch to the kind of fair-trade coffee which lessens the exploitation of poor workers and improves not only their lives but the environment. He forms Laughing Man Worldwide, a foundation to import a coffee he calls Dukale's Dream, a big seller, which he proudly states leaves no organic footprint.

In the film, Jackman comes across as simply the nicest guy in the world, with the eternal wide-eyed wonder of a child, unbelievably ingenuous, as he warbles an Australian anthem to impressed Ethiopians and describes the joy of "working really hard and getting sweaty.” It truly doesn't seem to be an act, like his rah-rah charity work on Broadway, when he ends his shows by stripping off his shirt and auctioning it off for thousands of dollars from rabid fans. You never doubt his sincerity, so it's a bit off-putting that the doc comes across as so self-congratulatory and repetitive. Its basic thinness might have been lessened by more of a focus on Dukale and his culture—outside of coffee-growing—and maybe less on Jackman's being interviewed by a star-struck Ethiopian TV journalist and other garrulous celebrity moments.