In 2009, X-Men star Hugh Jackman and his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, visited coffee farmers in Ethiopia in partnership with World Vision, a charity that provides aid to children around the world. On that trip, Jackman bonded with a young coffee farmer named Dukale, and the relationship sparked a coffee-centric crusade for Jackman that eventually led to the opening of his all-Fair Trade Laughing Man coffee shop in downtown New York. Now, the actor and philanthropist has released a film documenting that journey, called Dukale's Dream, which opened in theaters today. The release coincides with the launch of Laughing Man's partnership with Keurig Green Mountain, a line of four Laughing Man blends in K-Cup form, including one produced by Dukale himself. F&W had the chance to chat with Jackman about the film and why he believes Fair Trade coffee can save the world.
What about Dukale's story is so compelling?
When I went to meet him in the Yirgacheffe region—it’s like a six-hour drive south of Addis Ababa—he didn’t speak any English. I did not speak his language. But from the moment I met him, I felt this weird connection, like I’d known him—a brotherly type feeling. And I spent the day working with him. We shared coffee together, I spent time with him in his home, with his family, and I had a real understanding of how hard he works. This was just one day, and he works seven days a week. He had 800 trees, which is relatively small. And I saw how happy he was. His wife was pregnant, with I think his sixth child, and because of the help of World Vision, he had broken out of the cycle of poverty. You could see it on his face—he was proud of what he did. We planted trees there, which we named after my kids. They're now bearing coffee beans, which is exciting. I promised by the end of that day I spent with him, 'I’m going to get your story out there.' Because now I understand what Fair Trade means, and I understand what a difference it makes to someone like his life. And how what a relatively simple a choice it is for the consumer here, but how revolutionary a difference it is in the life of someone like him. Within a week of getting home I was invited to speak at the United Nations, and I said, ‘What a perfect opportunity this is.” So I first began to talk about him then. Then my friend said he was starting a coffee business, and it all flowed and has led to this really kind of fairytale ending, being able to scale out into millions and millions of homes with Keurig Green Mountain.
I made a pledge to go back with my children; they were a bit young for the first trip, but I really want to take them back. Now that their trees are bearing fruit, I want them to see that.