The festival, now in its 12th edition is currently the only film festival in the world dedicated to wine and cinema, with its main base in the town of Vilafranca del Penedès, one Spain’s largest wine-producing regions and home to both DO Penedès as well as DO Cava. There have also been additional screenings being held in the Priorat region for the last few years.
I’m quite happy to see it win the top prize as not only was I serving on the jury this year, but I’d recommended it for inclusion to the organizers after Jenia Nikolaichuk wrote about it a year ago.
Director Roman Zajac (Zay-ats) has produced what ultimately is a heavy film about the war as it delves into the realities of Russia’s deciding to invade Ukraine in the unprovoked manner that they did on 24 February, 2022. This wasn’t however the original intent of the film. Zajac, the owner of “Серцевина” (Heart of wine) had started out to simply produce a film that celebrated the wines being made in Ukraine when he began filming in 2021, then the war broke out before he had finished and it changed the entire concept of the project.
The broader scenes of destruction in this film are part and parcel to what we’ve all seen on CNN at this point. What the Russians have perpetrated in Ukraine is horrific, unwarranted, and obscene. But what Zajac has done is to refocus on the humans in this war as they talk about what seems like a frivolous pursuit in making wine when a vengeful nation is attempting yet another genocide of your people.
There is a single moment however upon which the entire film pivots which is when these two singers of the band, Rock-H were performing out in a sun-dappled vineyard in the Transcarpathian region. It then abruptly cuts to them finishing the song in the current reality of the war. I can explain the scene in text to the end of days, but seeing it on the screen has such a tremendous weight that sticks with you and doesn’t leave, thus summarizing the pain and horror of what the Russians have caused in but a scant two minutes.
The filmmakers take a tour across the country and it allows the scope of the invasion to sink in, without even getting anywhere near the frontlines or decimated towns such as Bakhmut or Avdiivka. But all the while, there’s a certain levity to the people Zajac interviews which is the other key aspect he sought out to capture, this Ukrainian spirit, albeit at nearly two years in to this shit war, people are admitting it’s hard to keep it up.
Somehow, Zajac is able to come back around to positivity in the end of the film when visiting the Molchanov family and their “Grad Cru” vineyard down in the Mykolaiv Oblast. After talking about the war, they’re able to end the day in some form of normalcy, showing that once this war is over, the Ukrainians are very much ready to get on with their lives.
This is a film for the times we find ourselves in and it portrays the war via the lens of agriculture and people that I feel most anyone can relate to.
Please also take a look at additional films from the Most Festival.