Zev Robinson is a Canadian-British filmmaker currently living in Spain. Many of his projects have centered around food and wine, and his most recent documentary, “Life on the Douro”, is filmed over a 15 month period and connects 300 years of history in Porto and the Douro. He has worked in Portugal, Spain and now has his sights in Italy!
Wine Pleasures is very pleased to announce the Premiere Film showing in Italy of “Life on the Douro” at this years International Wine and Tourism Conference. In preparation for the showing, we caught up with Zev Robinson about his documentary and his views on wine, port, and film. Below are the answers to his questions:
1. Can you tell us a little about your background in Film and in Wine?
I’m a Canadian-British filmmaker and artist currently living in Spain. I’ve been working with video for about 10 years now, and started doing documentaries on Spanish wine almost four years ago, then began Life on the Douro in 2010, and I’ve just started one on Italy. I enjoy wine, but it is the culture and the production side of wine that interests me that my films focus on.
2. What was the inspiration behind the documentary?
When we lived in London, I remember buying a bottle of wine from the Valencian region where we now live and where my father-in-law has vineyards, and clearly thinking that no one really realizes all that goes into the making it, starting with the toil, hardships and risks the farmer goes through. After returning to Spain to live in a small village, I was taking a walk one day through the surrounding vineyards, and suddenly had the idea of tracing the process that goes into the making of a bottle of wine.
3. What was your favorite part of the project, and what was your biggest challenge?
It’s all one enormous challenge, it constantly shifts and develops, and you need patience and perseverance. The challenges are constant, but the biggest one is getting below the surface of things, understanding all that gone into producing a bottle of wine, showing the complexity of the culture of wine that runs from rural subsistence farmers to urban wine tasters, and trying to make sure that the film conveys it in a coherent narrative structure.
4. What about the Douro is so unique from the perspective of wine and wine culture?
With the unique, incredible landscape of the Douro, the approximately 200 kilometers of steep, terraced vineyards, the enduring, eternal quality of wine in general is made so evident, that wine goes way beyond a single person, his tastes and opinions, or a single generation, or even a century. The relationship between man and nature is also visually clear as you see how nature dominates while man struggles to carve out a bit of it for himself while depending on it.
There is also the relationship between the Portuguese and the English which created the region and the fortification process in the first place, and it is fascinating in its terms of the economics, history, and culture of wine.
5. What do you hope to convey in your film, and how has your perception of Wine and Port changed after having made this film?
As I said above, the whole challenge is to discover what goes into making a bottle of wine, and so my perception has to change. As I film and then edit, and go back to film some more, my understanding of the complexities, contradictions and conflicts of the wine world is constantly shifting. I hope to convey that wine is a complex, intricate fabric with many different layers involved, and not merely a beverage.
6. What was the best Port you tasted on your trip, and do you have any bottles tucked away for a special occasion?
I’ve been lucky enough to taste some great old Ports (and other wines), that is one of the side benefits of what I do. But I don’t have a “best” Port, it is the variety that interests me, especially in terms of its cultural context. I do have some bottles tucked away, but I want to stay neutral and won’t mention any names.
7. Any more wine-themed films on the horizon?
Life on the Douro is my third wine related film, the first, about wine production in the Valencian region where we live and mentioned above, was La Bobal . That was followed by Dinastia Vivanco. My next one will be about Arribes a magical, fascinating region in Spain just over the border from Portugal with a very different history, which was once covered in vineyards but now only has 700 hectares left, but has also attracted people from other regions looking for new challenges and goals. I’ve been working on that for over two years, and for three years on my Spanish wine documentary which should be finished after that. I’ve started one on Italy, but it’s still early days with that.
The Premiere Italy showing of “Life on the Douro” is on Tuesday, January 31st at 3:45pm. Don’t miss a chance to see the film and network with wine enthusiasts from around the globe!
A special thank you to Patrick Denis and e-Tourism Forum for making this screening a reality at IWINETC 2012