Filmmaker and Westlake native Jason Wise
For his last documentary, Somm
, filmmaker and Westlake native Jason Wise tackled the cabalistic topic of sommeliers, following a small clutch of wine-obsessed pros as they prepare for the grueling Master Sommelier exam. Wise followed up that successful film with Somm: Into the Bottle
, a much deeper dive into the world of wine, and like the first, it has surprisingly broad appeal.
The film will make its Ohio premier on April 17th at the Cedar Lee Theatre, a limited-seating engagement
that includes a post-flick meet-and-greet with Wise, wine and snacks at the Wine Spot
. The film also can be downloaded through iTunes
I understand you’ve been doing non-stop publicity since the world premiere in November.
Every single one of these screenings feels like maintenance to me, but the Cleveland one I’ve been fighting so hard to have because it’s the one I really, really, really wanted. From the moment I got a driver’s license I was at the Cedar Lee at least three times a week for seven, eight years. That theater literally is the reason I wanted to make films. It’s an amazing honor to have my film play at that theater and to be there for it.
The widespread appeal of Somm, a documentary about fanatical sommeliers, took a lot of people by surprise.
When I made the first movie, all I had were people telling me that it was a niche within a niche within a niche – nobody’s going to care about this film. And now I can’t fashion somebody to have that opinion. Everybody is like, “I told you what a good idea it was to do this thing!” It’s hilarious.
Did you run into the same sort of resistance with this second, more penetrating analysis of wine?
All my distributor and everybody else were saying was who is going to relate to this? Like with the first film, we’re finding the opposite is true. Their girlfriends or boyfriends or husbands or wives are dragging them into the theatre and they’re walking out going, holy crap, I didn’t know it was going to be about war, or that Osama bin Laden would die at the end. Not only has it worked, but most of the reviews that have come out have called it way more accessible than the first film, which is the craziest thing in the world to me.
Seeing as this second film focuses on a much broader topic – wine itself – was the order of the films reversed?
Nobody would have sat down to watch the second movie had the first movie not come out. The first film was like a pill wrapped in bacon. And with the second film the bacon is in the pill. This quote-unquote sequel to Somm
was risky, and hard as hell to put together because of it.
What did you hope to accomplish by drinking on screen some of the world’s rarest and most expensive wines – other than make a lot of people jealous, of course?
We try to humanize the wine, and we do that by jumping into different topics, like this family that has been making wine for 16 generations. Since 1481 there have only been three years when they couldn’t make wine. One was when Napoleon burned down the entire region, the other was when Nazis came through and killed everybody, and one was related to weather.
In this film you shine a bright, and sometime unsympathetic, light on various facets of the industry.
I think people made an error with the first film thinking that I loved sommeliers. That’s funny because it’s not like I really portrayed them as these golden gods. This film is the same in a lot of ways, but it’s a different rhythm. I get into sommeliers and how much bullshit that whole thing is and I get into critics and how much bullshit that whole thing is. But in order to say things are bullshit you also have to show their merits.
How do you feel about the whole wine-critic-as-arbiter-of-good-taste concept?
There is no ability to clock wine from any kind of a quality standpoint. It’s impossible, and anybody who thinks you can is full of shit. But we also don’t say those critics are worthless. A lot of these sommeliers who love wine wouldn’t have even started getting into it if folks like Robert Parker hadn’t been writing about it. The people who say Robert Parker is full of shit are full of shit themselves.
You cover a lot of weighty topics, and the film at times is dense. But it’s also lush, beautiful and visually breathtaking.
Thanks. We worked very hard to shoot this thing. It was like the Planet Earth
of wine. It was our goal to do that without narration, and that’s a tricky thing. Wine regions are really beautiful but they’re often hard to shoot in because they have very harsh light.
What is the key concept that you hope viewers walk away with?
We get into why people like wine, why it’s important in our culture. The movie goes through all the wars, all the religion, all of this and all of that – some pretty heady stuff – to get to the final point that wine is supposed to be opened at the table, and if it doesn’t get you laid, or end the fight you’re in, or close this deal, it’s pointless and doesn’t matter what anybody said about it.