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Blind Ambition review – crowdpleasing doc is begging for a feature adaptation

This story of the first Zimbabwean team to compete at an international wine-tasting competition is utterly charming

With an immensely charming and feelgood story, Blind Ambition is one of those documentaries where you can practically feel a Hollywood exec casting the roles for a drama feature adaptation as you watch it play out. Robert Coe and Warwick Ross’s film is hardly the most challenging doc you’ll see this year, but it may well be the most purely fun.

Blind Ambition follows four Zimbabwean men who fled the violence and chaos of their home country for the relative safety of South Africa. Through their various restaurant jobs, they realised they each had an exceptional palate for wine, eventually entering an international wine-tasting competition as the first Zimbabwean team to ever compete.

It’s in the buildup to this championship where most of this documentary’s drama lies, as the group raise funds and train ahead of the finals in Burgundy. Both individually and as a group, they make for delightful company – they’re funny and warm with one another and their ability to blindly identify wine, right down to the individual producer and vintage, is genuinely mind-boggling.

Of course, there’s a tragic dimension to all their stories, especially in their bleak recounting of the journeys they each took to reach South Africa, but this is not where Blind Ambition’s focus lies. This is a story of how pure talent can not only lead to external success and recognition, but open up new doors in someone’s self-perception, and when it really taps into that in the talking head segments, it’s very hard to not be moved.

Nothing in this simply presented underdog tale will surprise you, but it doesn’t really need to. It gets you invested from minute one and keeps that pace up throughout, zipping from Zimbabwe to South Africa to France without wasting any time, all the way to an ending that is predictable but no less heartwarming for that fact. A good vintage.

Blind Ambition is released in UK cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from August 12.

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