You don’t have to live like a refugee… Blind Ambition film review

7/10

Summary

Blind Ambition REVIEW

From refugees to top sommeliers… here’s a film with a story so unlikely that it almost seems like fiction. GARY STEEL on Blind Ambition.

Opens Thursday 10 March in selected theatres.

From impoverished and dangerous lives in Zimbabwe to world-class sommeliers competing in the premiere wine-tasting competition in France. If I was a documentarian, I’d jump at the idea of making a film about this seemingly preposterous and unlikely story. And so they have.

Blind Ambition follows four Zimbabweans as they get ready for the World Wine Blind Tasting Championships, and no – smart ass – you don’t have to be blind to participate.

 

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Joseph, Tinashe, Marlvin and Pardon have all come from incredible hardship growing up in the political strife and economic uncertainty of Zimbabwe. Blind Ambition takes time out to tell each of their stories while following them around as they do their jobs in their adopted country, South Africa.

Each of them has been through hell and back just surviving their border escape, then living in dangerous squalor as jobless refugees in a new country. And each of them has their own story of lucking into jobs in hospitality and then… epiphanies when they discovered wine and the art of tasting it.

Their Zimbabwean stories are sketchy, and I wanted to know more about their backgrounds, but perhaps the shaky politics of that nation prevented more detailed biographies. Still, we get to meet surviving members of their families and their wives and children and see how they’re acclimatising to Cape Town. (Even with good jobs, burglaries and violence are just around the next corner, and while the team are in France one of their wives is mugged).

They all seem like great guys and we feel their need to succeed to in some way pave over the horrific things they’ve experienced which – as one of the sommeliers explains – is tattooed into your brain and is always there regardless of the good things that happen.

And then, they manage to do the unthinkable: to raise enough cash to get to the French wine-tasting competition. And of course, we follow them there – a situation and a tradition that’s so traditionally white and privileged that we can’t help hoping like heck that they win… or at least don’t come last.

Blind Ambition isn’t particularly special in the way it’s shot or the story told but it does the job, and it captures the environments its characters move through splendidly. In a sense, it doesn’t require the intrusion of potentially distracting filmic techniques. This is a warm and ultimately hugely emotional film that carefully and clearly builds up layers of meaning. The wine-tasting competition means much, much more to these participants than just the ability to differentiate one wine from another on one’s sophisticated palate.

 

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