Another special screening of the documentary „André - The Voice of Wine” directed by Mark Tchelistcheff – on April 12 (Wednesday) - 7.00 PM.
Here we offer you an exclusive and special Sofia Film Fest interview with the directorMark Tchelistcheff:
What was the philosophy of life that your granduncle had?
He was a very generous man and by what he did and the way he lived his life, he was obviously born noble but just because you’re born noble, it doesn’t mean you are actually noble. A peasant can be noble, anybody can be noble. He lived by this incredible nobility as an essence of his life. And what he did, he was a gentleman through and through. He cared about what he did and he lived his life with passion. He worked until the day he died. In the hospital at age 92 in 1994, he was still tasting wines and giving advice.
What inspired him to push boundaries and to continue despite all obstacles and difficulties in life?
You will see at the end of the film – everything that he did in his life was by necessity. That’s what drove him often. But he also had an incredible passion. The family never wanted to leave Russia but there was a revolution and he was forced to. He lost farm through hell storm and was destroyed and he lost all his money, so he was forced to go back to winemaking because of necessity. He needed to feed his family. And then he got a job in America. He was thinking about the future of his own family and he already had some contacts and family in America, so he took this invitation to come to America in 1938 and he’d lived his life very simple but he was incredibly complexed at the same time. He was an extremely intelligent man and he believed in sharing information. He believed in breaking down the boundaries of secrecy. If we all make wine, it will be better for everybody. So he lived by this and sharing information and teaching the next generation. He believed in the young and he saw that they are the future. He just kept teaching and helping them. On the one side, he is very easy, on the other side, he could be very straight. Especially when it came to making good wine – he wanted people to make good wine but he was always looking for alternatives and taking risks to see how we can make better wine, not just staying along with the same but learning and learning every day. He was a life student. He also imbued that upon his proteges and students. And many of the students felt like he was a father to them as a mentor. So he really touched people around the world.
Tell me more about your personal relationship with him.
I knew Andre as a young man, I spent time with him and he was wonderful and charming, mischievous and he had a great sense of humour. He was like a grandfather to me as well, not just a granduncle and I loved being with him. But I didn’t put myself in the film. I had my Hitchcock moment, there is an image of me but I’m not speaking because in the film I felt that had to tell his story, not my story.
Was there anything that you didn’t succeed to put in the film?
How can you put a man who lived between 1901 to 1994? How do you put basically a century of life in an hour and a half? I had over 300 hours of material. From 300 hours to an hour and a half? You can’t have everything. I mean I could make 10 films probably with what I have. But you have to make choices because a film is also a story and you have to keep the story moving and keep the audiences interested. 60-70% of the people I interviewed ended up on the cutting floor, not in my film. The story of him being in Bulgaria ended up not being in the film because you can’t tell everything – 92 years is a lot of life.
How long did the whole process continue and how your perception and concept of the film has changed through the years?
The film took 10 years. The first time I start filming was on March 9th, 2007 at 6 p.m. If I’d finished the film in the first year, it wouldn’t be the film today, it would be impossible. Some material I only found 4-5 years later. Mike Niemann was the man who gave me his original material. He had a box with 8mm projector and 8mm camera and the stacks of 8 mm films that Andre had shot with his family in 40ies and 50ies. I only found that in 2012 and started the film in 2007. Then I found other material where he is talking about his own life also years later. In 2012 I went into the archives and found this material from the revolution and civil war of Russia between bolsheviks and the White Army and at the end, the last shot that I did in this film was in 2016 in Italy. Documentary films are very organic. I had an idea, I had a script and basically an outline of what I thought the film would be and of course when I found all this other material I realised that Andre could tell his own story. So he’s telling his own story and I hope I captured his spirit.
If you keep a good example from him or have a lesson from him, what would it be?
Modesty. I could never be good man or great man as my granduncle. He was an amazing person. As Christian Moueix (his family had made one of the most famous and most expensive wines in the world - Château Pétrus) said about Andre: “He was a teacher to us all in wine-making and modesty.” Giving rather than just taking. I think sharing information, helping others and thinking of others rather than just of yourself, that’s what he did all his life. And if I can do just a little bit of that, I will be happy when I die. That I’ve been able to touch some people the way he touched people in his life… The people that know him and even from a distance who knew him were extremely touched and inspired by him. He instilled inspiration and passion. After Berlinale, I received some feedback from audience members. Kids came out to me and said: “I’m so inspired now. Maybe I can do what I really wanna do!” It’s not just a film about a winemaker and people who are interested in wine but people find what they’re passionate about and they just do it. As Francis Ford Coppola said in my film: “The things that we are fired for at 20 are the same things that we’ll probably receive a lifetime achievement award when we are 80…” Because we follow our passion. Franklin Roosevelt who is in my film while it’s the repeal of the prohibition and he said that there’s nothing to fear but fear itself and people shouldn’t live their lives out of fear. Fear is what stops us from doing things. Don’t live your life from fear, live it from your passion, live your life with strength, compassion, wisdom. Try to live your life without fear and come from the other side, transform it.
What are your future plans for the film?
I hope the film will get a great distribution around the world. It’s like giving birth to your child. This film is like one of my children. For every filmmaker, his films are like his children. Cause you’ve put so much heart, time and effort to make it. It might not be for everybody but that’s ok too. If it just touches a few people and inspires them, it is a great thing. Probably I will make a book with pictures and stories from the winemakers. I think a book is coming.
Who is Andre in a few words?
Andre is a man that inspired many and changed the world of wine. He was a man of great wisdom and generosity. He had the ability to charm and inspire people to do the best they can in their lives. We all can do that. Just do the best you can with passion and humility.
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The fascinating film is an epic journey through the life of a Russian emigrant who changes the world of wine. Mark actually tells the story of his great-uncle - Andre Tchelistcheff, born into a Russian aristocratic family, survived the horrors of the Russian Revolution and managed to become known as one of the most skilled wine connoisseurs in America.
The unique portrait film had its world premiere at this year's Berlin Film Festival and was voiced by actor Ralph Fiennes. Andre's love of wine and his philosophy of life are an example for several generations of followers. "This is a fairy-tale film that really inspires and excites," the media exclaimed about "André - The Voice of Wine".
And here is what our partners Domaine Boyar have prepared for the fans of Gourmet Cinema - the wines on WEDNESDAY, are Geyser Peak Chardonnay, Geyser Peak Cabernet Sauvignon and Rue Romance Sauvignon Blanc!