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by Indiewire
April 13, 2013 12:32 PM
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Meet the 2013 Tribeca Filmmakers #26: Warwick Ross' Passion for Wine and Filmmaking Blend in 'Red Obsession'

Warwick Ross
Warwick Ross is not one to give up on his dreams. He was born into colonial Hong Kong society of the 1950's and later moved to Australia where he graduated with an honors degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Melbourne. But his passion was always film. He spent time making shorts at school so after graduating, he applied to film school at the University of Southern California. Although he didn't earn a place in the program he still showed up to school and audited all the classes for a year, learning as much as he could while trying to keep a low profile from the administrators. It was with a reference from one of those professors that he managed to land a position working on  Columbia Pictures "The Blue Lagoon" starring Brooke Shields and so began his film career. Warwick also owns a winery called Portsea Estate, in Victoria, Australia, which has won national and international awards for its Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. His personal experiences shaped his involvement with his feature, "Red Obsession."

What it's about:
The Bordeaux region in France has long commanded respect around the world for its highly coveted wine. The price of the wine fluctuates yearly, depending on things like weather and soil, and these prices have been rising. But even the elite vintners of Bordeaux could not prepare themselves for the surge that was coming. As the global market shifts, a new consumer has emerged with a voracious appetite: China. The Chinese nouveau riche have become obsessed with owning luxury items, and nothing is more luxurious than a finite product that costs $80,000 a bottle. As the Chinese buy up Bordeaux by the crate load, prices skyrocket, forcing traditional buyers out.

What else should audiences know?: "Having been born in Hong Kong in the 1950’s, I’ve witnessed its transition, frequently tumultuous, into a post colonial society, driven by influxes of refugees from mainland communist China, their aspirational ambitions and the evolving nature of the political system - Particularly as the mainland Chinese government has increasingly imposed itself on the island’s administration since the 1997 hand-over. As such, China has always held a fascination for me - and being a vigneron here in Australia, wines have always been a passion. So, when the opportunity arose to combine these two seemingly disparate subjects in a documentary about China's burning obsession with Bordeaux's finest wines, I couldn’t resist."

On the challenges: "Our biggest challenge was gaining access to regions of China where foreign camera crews are actively discouraged - like the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in far flung western China, where ethnic tensions have been running high for many years. We had a very good local connection and came in with an entirely Chinese crew and so our foreign element went undetected.  Also, gaining the confidence of the winemakers and owners of the world's most famous Chateaux, like Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour and Chateau Lafite Rothschild, was critical in allowing them to feel comfortable enough to speak frankly to us - this took many months."

"Red Obsession" Still

What he hopes audiences will walk away with: "I'd like audiences to reflect on how important tolerance and understanding is when dealing with cultures unlike our own. I think our job as documentary filmmakers is to present the views, arguments and perspectives of both sides to the audience without allowing any perceived prejudice of the filmmakers to bear on the subje."

What's next: "Currently, we're writing the script for a WWII drama called "Escape from Hong Kong" about a small group of British intelligence officers and Chinese guerrillas who escaped the Japanese forces on Christmas day 1941. True story - The first time in history that British and Chinese forces fought together against a common enemy.  We're also producing a comedy - "The Untitled Bulgarian Project" about a writer who unwittingly becomes embroiled with the Bulgarian Mafia while trying to kick-start his flagging career."

Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2013 festival.

Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on April 17 for the latest profiles.