Until finding his grandmother Maroussia Zorokovich’s diaries, Daniel Edelstyn didn’t know much about his family history. But as soon as he delved into the handwritten pages, he grew intrigued by Maroussia’s descriptions of the family’s sugar factory and set out on a journey to the remote Ukrainian village of her birth.
What he finds is a shuttered factory and, to his surprise, a distillery his family once operated. After toasts with the locals, Edelstyn decides to import their vodka to his native U.K.—and to make a film based on his experience, aptly titled How to Re-Establish a Vodka Empire.
Stop-motion animation and silent reenactments dramatize selections from Maroussia’s diary and draw parallels between her journey and Edelstyn’s. Early in the film, Edelstyn markets the vodka by staging a struggle between his grandfather and a Bolshevik at a spirits conference. “You can’t just use the iconography of Soviet Russia to sell vodka,” a consultant advises him afterward. By the film’s end, Edelstyn has refined his approach—and names his vodka Zorokovich, after his grandmother.