BLIND AMBITION is an inspiring underdog story for the ages. An unlikely team of Zimbabwean refugees turned sommeliers shake up the international wine establishment when they compete in the World Wine Tasting Championships.
When Jancis Robinson, one of the world’s foremost wine authorities, alerted us to the extraordinary rise of four Zimbabwean refugees who were fast becoming South Africa’s top sommeliers, we were immediately drawn to their story. Having made feature documentary RED OBSESSION four years earlier, we knew the wine establishment to be Europe-centric, exclusive and overwhelmingly white. Zimbabwe is a country with next to no wine production or wine consumption.
So how was it that these four men, who had never even tasted wine before escaping from Robert Mugabe’s brutal regime, were now the head sommeliers at the four best restaurants in Cape Town? Even more remarkable was that they were in the process of forming a team to compete against 24 other countries at the WORLD WINE TASTING CHAMPIONSHIPS in France. The first black team ever to do so. Team Zimbabwe.
Meet Tinashe, Pardon, Joseph and Marlvin: the world’s unlikeliest sommeliers. Just 10 years ago these Zimbabwean men faced destitution as inflation crippled their homeland. With no job prospects under Robert Mugabe’s brutal regime, and unable to feed their young families, they each made a harrowing decision: to leave their home and everything they’d ever known, and use their last pennies to be smuggled across the border into South Africa.
But South Africa was just another battleground. Tinashe, Pardon, Joseph and Marlvin weren’t the only ones fleeing their home country – millions of Zimbabwean refugees poured into Johannesburg seeking work. The local residents resented this influx of illegal immigrants, and soon Zimbabweans were the targets of anti-foreigner riots. With nothing but the clothes on their backs, and maligned by their new community, our protagonists slept on the floor of a local church as they searched for work: grave digging, worm farming, labouring – anything they could get.
But determination, faith and cast-iron work ethics saw the four men quickly excel, and soon our heroes found better jobs in hospitality, first scrubbing dishes, then waiting tables. But to progress past clearing plates, they would need a basic knowledge of wine. This presented multiple challenges.
Because Zimbabwe had no wine industry at the time, the four men had neither heard of nor tasted wine. Furthermore, as Pentecostal Christians, they’d vowed never to touch alcohol, so the path to success also brought a crisis of faith. After much discussion with their families and members of their church, our heroes concluded that, for them, wine must be “God’s calling.”
Fast forward a few years and the four have emerged as the most celebrated sommeliers in Africa, working in some of the world’s most awarded restaurants.
Now Joseph, Tinashe, Pardon and Marlvin are about to cross the border once more. They are poised to become the first Zimbabwean team to take on one of the wine industry’s greatest challenges – The World Wine Blind Tasting Championships held in Burgundy, France. This event is commonly known as the “Olympics of wine tasting.” And just to add to the pressure, their adventure is being followed by wine lovers and experts from all around the world. When wine luminary Jancis Robinson heard their story,she set up a crowd funding campaign to raise money to get them to France.
Now all eyes will be on the four young men as they travel to Europe to test their skills against teams from 26 other countries, including the US, Britain, France, Spain and Italy.Featuring the vibrant music and culture of Zimbabwe, BLIND AMBITION will trace their extraordinary journey from the flood plains of the Zambezi to the townships of Johannesburg. From the dramatic landscapes of the Cape to the rolling vineyards and ancient chateaux of Burgundy.
An uplifting story of hope, courage and determination, BLIND AMBITION is the “Cool Runnings” of the wine world.
Check your local theatre for screening times starting on the 10th of March 2022