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Review: Blind Ambition

October 7, 2022

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The documentary Blind Ambition follows Joseph Dhafana, Marlvin Gwese, Tinashe Nyamudoka and Pardon Taguzu, four men from Zimbabwe living in South Africa, who form the first Zimbabwean team to compete in the annual World Blind Wine Tasting Championships in France.

The men had gone most of their lives without having even tasted wine, before quickly becoming connoisseurs following their first sip, and deciding to compete in the historically not very diverse competition. The prestigious event involves having to taste twelve wines – six white and six red – and correctly identify the type of grape, country of origin, and year of production in a set amount of time in order to earn points.

But they are at an inherent disadvantage from not having access to more obscure wines in South Africa, due to both financial and geographical reasons. One wine writer compares it being like having a ski team from Egypt. Directed by Robert Coe and Warwick Ross, Blind Ambition lays out the stakes by following the men in the lead up to the competition. The film counts down the days as they train and test each other’s knowledge, while also allowing them to each share their own personal stories about why they had to leave their home country of Zimbabwe for South Africa.

The result is an inspiring documentary that works because it’s not just about the wine (though less initiated viewers will pick up a thing or two about the art of blind tasting), but also about the subjects and their unique refugee stories, and why this competition is so important to them. The filmmaking is complimented by some stylistic touches like action shots of the team walking together in slow motion, and a few drone shots. This is a true underdog story that works thanks to the four main subjects being very easy to root for.

Blind Ambition is opening today in limited release at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto, and will be playing in more cities in the coming weeks. It’s being distributed in Canada by levelFILM.

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