How To Re-Establish A Vodka Empire

How To Re-Establish A Vodka Empire

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Most people like to know a bit about where they come from, their family roots. For Daniel Edelstyn, whose father died when he was just a toddler, this is a particular passion. He's intrigued by the story of his father's mother, a beautiful dancer who fled Ukraine in the wake of the Communist revolution and moved to Ireland, leaving behind all her inherited wealth, including the family sugar factory. So he travels to the snowbound village where her story began. The sugar factory is closed, long since abandoned, the locals tell him. But he knows the vodka factory is still up and running, right?

Discovering he is heir to a vodka empire is quite a shock for young Daniel. Of course he has no reasonable claim on it, yet he still feels strongly connected to the factory, its products, and the people of the village whom this last surviving industry supports. So when he has sensibly set aside his fantasies of buying back the factory itself, he thinks, why not import the vodka to London and see if he can make it an international success?

The story of Daniel's business exploits is not in itself very interesting. He's a minnow swimming with sharks, a sweet young man with no relevant expertise who thinks he can blag his way along on the strength of a story. Of course it's not all about failure, or it wouldn't sustain a full length film, but it's somewhat over-familiar. Fortunately, this story makes up rather less of the film than the title might suggest. Deftly interwoven with it is the story of that remarkable grandmother, based on her diaries and beautifully composed.

in telling the grandmother's story, Daniel makes inventive use of pseudo-archive footage, with sets and costumes created by his endearingly loyal artist partner Hilary Powell, who plays the grandmother herself. The couple's love of old Soviet style filmmaking techniques manifests gloriously in images that charm and delight. Mischievous humour carries us through the darker parts of the tale. The grandmother's grave has no headstone - nobody knows why - yet this is a far better epitaph than most of us could dream of.

Watching this one does, of course, harbour some suspicion that it is a very long advert, but even the most cynical viewers will have to admit that it has spirit.

Reviewed on: 07 Feb 2012
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A documentary maker exploring his family history uncovers a story that prompts him to take a on a life-changing business venture.
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Director: Daniel Edelstyn

Writer: Daniel Edelstyn

Starring: Hilary Powell, Anthony Styles, Conrad Asquith, Dan Edelstyn

Year: 2011

Runtime: 75 minutes

Country: UK


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