A documentary about grit and gratitude, “Blind Ambition” profiles four sommeliers competing for team Zimbabwe at the World Blind Wine Tasting Championships in Bordeaux, France.
The story is remarkable solely for the challenge its characters face: to blind taste twelve wines, correctly attributing each to its grape variety, country, region, producer and vintage. However the background of its protagonists prove even more extraordinary; the four men are Zimbabwean refugees who emigrated to Cape Town, South Africa in the wake of their homeland’s 2008 economic crisis. In seeking a better life, they pursue opportunities across the restaurant industry, and all soon after fall in love with wine.
Their cumulative inexperience with the foreign liquid serves as little obstacle to their career trajectories. Each becomes a sommelier at top-tier restaurants across Cape Town. However it’s clear their paths to success have been met with inexpressible suffering and sacrifice; in leaving behind desperate conditions in Zimbabwe, they only faced greater desperation across the border’s refugee camps, facing pervasive violence and hunger.
A story of underdog faith, Blind Ambition presents its competitors’ determined spirit across a series of trainings that lead up to the main event, dubbed the “Olympics of wine tasting.” The four Somms are already making history as part of the first Zimbabwe team to ever compete, but it’s clear they’re also in it to win it all. However serious their intentions, there’s a certain lightness and playfulness with which they approach the process, serving the film’s endearing tone. As the group travels across new lands and encounters new tastes, you can’t help but appreciate – as one wine professional remarks – “the awe with which they regard wine.” With the odds stacked against the four men, the competition’s outcome isn’t nearly as relevant as the team’s momentous undertaking.
The cinematic experience relies heavily on portraiture and is lean on characteristic style; it does deliver amusing flashes of drama, namely in the rivalry between the South Africa and Zimbabwe wine coaches, two eccentrics whose ego-driven actions at times threaten to stray the team off course. On the whole, the film offers a pleasurable viewing experience for those looking for an empowering and uplifting story. In the aftermath of our collective pandemic-induced hardship, Blind Ambition is a welcomed stimulant for the soul.
Co-written and directed by Australians Warwick Ross and Rob Coe, “Blind Ambition” had its World Premiere screening in the Documentary Competition section at Tribeca Film Festival. Its wider release has yet to be announced.