'Dukale's Dream': Film Review
Josh Rothstein's documentary chronicles actor Hugh Jackman's trip to Ethiopia and subsequent advocacy of fair-trade coffee.
You can't entirely dismiss a movie in which you get to see a sweaty Hugh Jackman vigorously shoveling manure. Nor can you doubt the sincerity of the actor, whose trip to Ethiopia and meeting with a poor coffee farmer spurred him to promote fair-trade coffee and create a business importing the environmentally friendly product. Unfortunately, Dukale's Dream, the documentary recounting his experiences, mostly plays like a glorified infomercial.
Director Josh Rothstein had apparently planned on making a documentary about Jackman's gig hosting the Academy Awards. But focus got shifted when the actor and his wife, Deborra-Lee Furness, were invited in 2009 to go to Ethiopia as ambassadors for Australia World Vision, a philanthropic organization to which they are substantial donors.
Projecting the same boyish energy and enthusiasm on display in his awards-hosting duties and personal appearances, Jackman was naturally a hit in the African country, even recognized by some of the small children familiar with his Wolverine character. It's upon his meeting with the titular coffee grower that he truly gets down and dirty, eagerly pitching in on various chores, including the aforementioned manure shoveling into a methane converter that transforms it into bio-clean energy for lighting and cooking, a dramatic departure from the wood burning usually employed. The affable, hard-working Dukale had no idea who his celebrity visitor was, but the two men struck up a friendship that had a lasting effect on both men.
Upon returning to his New York City home, Jackman continued his campaign, delivering an impassioned speech at the United Nations and, as the film showcases, addressing the need for fair-trade coffee as a method for alleviating pollution and third-world poverty with various cafe owners and consumers in his neighborhood. He eventually put his money where his mouth was, founding the Laughing Man coffee company to distribute the product, with 100 percent of the profits going to a foundation supporting related causes. Its biggest seller is the organic Dukale's Dream, named after his new friend.
It's certainly a worthwhile and important issue, one to which Jackman's advocacy obviously helps draw attention. But the film, featuring endless scenes of the actor both being fawned over and enthusiastically championing the cause, ultimately feels too self-congratulatory to have the desired effect. By the end, it comes as little surprise that the gift Jackman sends a grateful Dukale is a framed photograph of the two men smiling with their arms around each other's shoulders.
Production: The 7th Floor, JVR Productions, Tandem Pictures, Renart Films
Director/director of photography: Josh Rothstein
Producers Jesse Scolaro, Julie Christeas, Schuyler Weiss
Executive producers: Dale Amtsberg, Elly Bradbury
Editors: Raphael Rice, Eric Freidenberg
Composer: Jordan Rothstein
Not rated, 70 minutes