Two new documentaries

Two new documentaries

Take this tip from filmmaker Jonathan Nossiter: if you don’t like how the world is changing, make a documentary about it.

Mondovino is Nossiter’s warning shot to wine lovers around the world. Look out, globalisation is about to strike the terroir, or unique regional characteristics, out of the bottle.

Nossiter records the struggles of several winemaking families in France, Italy and Argentina -“ from the peasants of Burgundy to the aristocratic Italian Frescobaldi and Antinori families of Florence to the indigenous Argentinean vigneron with a single hectare under his attention -“ as they fight a Californian wine corporation worth billions as it rolls with the power of a tsunami towards their vineyards.

As globalisation’s Svengali duo, Nossiter casts Michel Rolland, the world’s highest-priced and influential flying winemaker, and his friend, the American wine critic, Robert Parker. Rolland’s influence is seen in vineyards, including Mondavi’s in the Napa Valley, across 12 countries. In Bordeaux alone, he makes wine for 400 wineries.

His constant call to micro-oxygenate the wine gets up Nossiter’s carefully trained sommelier’s nose as does Parker’s self-satisfied claim to have brought an American, a democratic point of view to winemaking. Between them, Nossiter says, they have wiped the sometimes flawed but definitely regional character of terroir from so many wines. It would be like taking Margaret out of Margaret River and Clare out of the Clare Valley. Soon everything has the same micro-oxygenated taste.

Mondovino should have been a great film: its premise is powerful, its characters compelling and moving, but Nossiter’s execution is sadly arrogant and disdainful. He treats his subjects -“ globalisation’s partners and victims alike -“ as painful interruptions rather than as serious combatants at the epicentre of Mondovino‘s dramatic David and Goliath battle as he devotes almost as much attention to winemakers’ dogs and a bedazzling array of press attach?.

Much more sympathetic is the doco Murderball which overturns preconceptions about disability aplenty through its rough and tumble journey into the world of quadriplegic rugby. Quad rugby is one tough sport, played on a basketball court by players in armoured wheelchairs who seem to relish slamming into each other.

Murderball charts the progress of archrivals Canada and the United States from the 2002 World Championships to the Athens Paralympics. At the heart of the team rivalry is the defection by sacked US player Joe Soares to coach the Canadians and the antipathy between him and the macho yet charismatic US player Mark Zupan. Along the way, we meet the rest of the US team.

The strength and personal stories of these young men are inspiring. From rehab to some heart-warming tales of wheelchair sex, their stories about living with disability are a revelation. This is fly-on-the-wall storytelling and the wheel-cam footage of the actual game shows just how tough these guys are. If anything, Murderball is too sympathetic and we don’t see how really difficult it is to find yourself without the freedom you figured was yours to keep.

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