Blind Ambition – Glasgow Film Festival 2022 – Film Review
Blind Ambition is that inspiring, bubbly tale of triumph over adversity in the world of wine. The film follows the journey of four disparate Zimbabwean men, Joseph, Pardon, Tinashe and Marlvin in a reality television style competition à la MasterChef as they take the wine industry by storm with their sheer determination and contagious optimism. The film is a successful blend of an emotive cross continent journey intertwined with the personal conflict surrounding the men but still possesses the ability to inject the film with the natural humour captured between the men. Their camaraderie is infectious and irresistible, with a tone and setting usually employed within fictional features, as the men traverse the globe en route to an international wine blind tasting competition in France.
These men’s stories are ones that are relatively unseen in the discourse on migrants, not least because travelling to Europe for wine tourism would be a rare, unexpected route for anyone deriving from their Zimbabwean villages. Each man has his own reason for moving to South Africa for seemingly better opportunities and it is this humane aspect that distinguishes Blind Ambition. What is clear is the shared passion, ambition and drive, coupled with the intention to pave the way for future generations, that each man embodies. The film’s title also reflects this spirited ambition and the result is a remarkable, compelling watch as the men’s captivating development unfolds as they transition into sommeliers and form Team Zimbabwe. The use of slow-motion angles and different aspect ratios showcasing the wine and the men’s talents within Blind Ambition also creates an intoxicating, somewhat seductive, immersive impact for the viewers.
The four men are truly the stars of the film and watching their transformation from unsophisticated wine purchasers to connoisseurs with confidence is transfixing. Their boundless energy and ability to detect the wines at blind wine tastings elicits that feeling of unwavering support for them and may also invoke an inward cheer. Blind Ambition’s winning formula is that combination of an energetic, directorial style interspersed with the energy and humanity of its subjects which will have universal appeal.
Blind Ambition has been described as being similar to Cool Runnings given that there is also team activity in international competitions. However, the film is also reminiscent of Fire in Babylon with that underlying theme of oppressed minorities combatting the odds to be respected internationally. The film also provides that fly on the wall commentary as the men excitedly visit French chateaux. It is this unparalleled, unjaded excitement that also delights wine experts such as Jancis Robinson. The inclusion of excerpts from Robinson highlights the intense level of competition but equally illustrates the impact of the men to diversify an industry which is typically seen as quite traditional and elite.
Co-directors Warwick Ross and Rob Coe’s decision to maintain an overall sense of positivity and authenticity is a good choice in a film of this calibre without veering into extreme sentimentality despite being a moving tale. Equally, the film features an infectious range of Afrobeats music matching the men’s unbridled enthusiasm which is extremely likely to create new fans of this musical genre. Team Zimbabwe’s journey is such that it may inspire many different generations to explore the world of wine, which is a testament to the powerful instruments of change that Team Zimbabwe’s efforts will be.
Team Zimbabwe’s journey in Blind Ambition is multi-faceted and not confined to being a tale of migration. These are the elements that propel Blind Ambition beyond being a reality television style contest, which is also assisted by the film’s riveting storytelling. Blind Ambition is an exciting tale of overcoming challenges which is dynamic and educational in equal measure. Hopefully, Blind Ambition may serve as that encouragement to pursue those slightly ambitious dreams. Above all, Blind Ambition emphasises the importance of stepping outside of the comfort zone and ultimately highlights just how rewarding the journey of discovery, and tasting new wines, can be whilst surrounded by friends. It is certainly a comforting lesson to us all.