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#OnTheBigScreen: Sommeliers, super pets and being internet famous

Four refugees become South Africa's top sommeliers in Blind Ambition, a family's faith launch the career of three NBA champion in Rise, pets flex their muscles as superheroes in the animated adventure DC League of Super-Pets, and a woman wants to be a superstar on the Internet in Not Okay.
#OnTheBigScreen: Sommeliers, super pets and being internet famous

Blind Ambition

When Jancis Robinson, one of the world’s foremost wine authorities, alerted Australian producers, directors and writers Warwick Ross and Rob Coe to the extraordinary rise of four Zimbabwean refugees who were fast becoming South Africa’s top sommeliers, they were immediately drawn to their unique story.

Meet Tinashe, Pardon, Joseph and Marlvin: the world’s unlikeliest sommeliers. Just 10 years ago these Zimbabwean men faced destitution as inflation crippled their homeland. With no job prospects under Robert Mugabe’s brutal regime, and unable to feed their young families, they each made a harrowing decision: to leave their home and everything they’d ever known, and use their last pennies to be smuggled across the border into South Africa.

Having escaped starvation and tyranny in their homeland of Zimbabwe, four refugees have conquered the odds to become South Africa’s top sommeliers. Driven by relentless optimism, a passion for their craft and unshakeable national pride, they form Zimbabwe’s first-ever wine tasting team and set their sights on the coveted title of ‘World Wine Tasting Champions’. From the moment they arrive in France to compete, this team of mavericks turns an establishment of privilege and tradition on its head. A truly uplifting documentary that celebrates just how irrepressible the human spirit can be.

“We were immediately drawn to their story. Having made the feature documentary Red Obsession four years earlier, we knew the wine establishment to be Europe-centric, exclusive and overwhelmingly white,” says Warwick Ross & Rob Coe

In cinemas from 29 July.

Read more here.


Rise is based on the triumphant real-life story about the remarkable family that produced the first trio of brothers to become NBA champions in the history of the league—Giannis and Thanasis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kostas Antetokounmpo.

Audiences have never seen a story like that of the Antetokounmpos, which mixes Nigerian heritage, Greek nationality and extraordinary athletic ability.

For Arash Amel, who crafted the screenplay of Rise, the film is “a very modern story of immigration, crossing cultures, crossing boundaries, and really a generation of children, of my own generation included, who have grown up not of one culture but of many. And having to absorb all of it and define ourselves.”

Rise is directed by Akin Omotoso, who studied drama at the University of Cape Town and made his directorial debut with God Is African” in 2003, and scripted by Arash Amel, who is known for writing the critically lauded film A Private War in 2018.

Rise will have its linear premiere across the continent on the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network ESPN (DStv218, Starsat 248) on 1 August.

Read more here.

#OnTheBigScreen: Sommeliers, super pets and being internet famous

DC League of Super-Pets

In the animated Krypto, the Super-Dog and Superman are inseparable best friends, sharing the same superpowers and fighting crime in Metropolis side by side. When Superman and the rest of the Justice League are kidnapped, Krypto must convince a rag-tag shelter pack—Ace the hound, PB the potbellied pig, Merton the turtle and Chip the squirrel—to master their own newfound powers and help him rescue the Super Heroes.

The idea for the story of DC League of Super-Pets came to filmmaker Jared Stern in precisely the place one might hope. When he helped his wife who volunteers at a pet shelter he was looking at a bunch of adorable kittens ready for adoption, he thought, ‘What if they got superpowers?’

Stern says he believes that “combining superheroes with pets is interesting because for a lot of people, pets are their heroes without superpowers; being a pet is a superpower in itself,” he smiles. “They provide so much love and they are heroes to people every day just in the way they love us and help take care of us. I think our pets, in some ways, are our real-life superheroes.”

Dwayne Johnson, who stars as the voice of Krypto the Super-Dog, and also serves as a producer on the film under his Seven Bucks banner, observes, “When you think about the conceit of what this is, about the pets of these Super Heroes, and the fact it has never been done before in cinema history!? “

In cinemas from 29 July.

Read more here.

Not Okay

Danni Sanders (Zoey Deutch) is an aimless aspiring writer with no friends, no romantic prospects and – worst of all – no followers, who fakes an Instagram-friendly trip to Paris in the hopes of boosting her social media clout. When a terrifying incident strikes the City of Lights, Danni unwittingly falls into a lie bigger than she ever imagined.

A mix of cautionary tale and social satire, its story traces back to writer-director Quinn Shephard’s experience of the cultural collision online during the last few years.

Not Okay’s characters should be familiar to those with a passing knowledge of the most notorious swindlers of the Internet age. Its “heroine”, Danni Sanders (Zoey Deutch), is a photo editor at a content mine who aspires to be the next viral sensation. Her co-worker/crush Colin (Dylan O’Brien), is a weed boi influencer. Her nemesis Harper (Nadia Alexander) is a feminist crusader who trades in Ruth Bader Ginsburg think pieces. And her new ally is Rowan (Mia Isaac), a school-shooting survivor turned gun violence advocate; the only virtuous one of the bunch.

“I found myself deeply affected by the endless scroll through frightening news headlines, mixed ceaselessly with influencer scandals, cancel culture and sponsored ads for skincare that will somehow make you forget that the world is burning,” says writer-director Quinn Shephard. “Writing Not Okay was a way for me to cope with the emotional information overload I was experiencing, and use satire to critique it.”

Not Okay debuts on Disney+ on 29 July.

Read more here.

Read more about the latest and upcoming film releases here.

About Daniel Dercksen

Daniel Dercksen has been a contributor for Lifestyle since 2012. As the driving force behind the successful independent training initiative The Writing Studio and a published film and theatre journalist of 40 years, teaching workshops in creative writing, playwriting and screenwriting throughout South Africa and internationally the past 22 years. Visit

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