While France and California’s wine regions have long served as the most popular locales when wine goes to the movies, more and more film crews (and Hollywood stars) are heading to Portugal’s Douro Valley to chase compelling wine dramas. The latest documentary to come out of the Douro comes from Portuguese director Carlos Carneiro, who showcases a traditional harvest in a A Wonderful Kingdom.
"When I scouted the Douro, I remember thinking, 'Bloody hell, this is stunning. I can place the camera anywhere and it will look fantastic,'" Carneiro told Wine Spectator. "Seeing the region become a destination and the wines more international, I wanted to remind the viewer that this is a region of simple, hard-working folks." A Wonderful Kingdom, available on Apple TV and Amazon Prime, stars the 2018 harvest, specifically at Niepoort, Churchill, Maria Izabel and Negreiros. The documentary is narrated by English actor Malcolm McDowell, with selected passages from late Portuguese writer Miguel Torga.
Carneiro, whose mother is from Douro Valley and father nearby Porto, has fond memories of his father making wine. "I remember us picking and stomping, and seeing my dad and uncles putting their muscles to work on the winepress," he recalled. "I think I made a conscious decision of wanting to be like them." Instead of getting his feet soaked this time, Carneiro filmed it.
The world has changed dramatically since Carneiro wrapped the project, but he believes his story is more timely than ever. "The pandemic happened and we thought, 'It's kind of good timing for this film to come out, because people are traveling less and we are able to take them to a place they probably have never been."
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