How to Re-Establish a Vodka Empire

A whirlwind journey through a family history

Directed by Dan Edelstyn

How to Re-Establish a Vodka Empire weaves together a multitude of themes in two overarching timeframes. In the first strand we meet film director Dan Edelstyn in the present day and follow his story as he attempts to trace and reconnect with his Ukrainian Jewish roots…

Edelstyn, who was three when his father died, grew up in a non-Jewish household in Northern Ireland. Before discovering his dead grandmother’s memoir he was only remotely aware of this side of his heritage but the snippets he did hear led to the harbouring of a long-term childhood fantasy of ‘returning’ to reclaim lost riches and set things right.

Grandmother Maroussia Zorokovich’s story stands out from the predominant experience of east European Jewry in and around the first World War. Voicing the experiences of a highly educated cosmopolitan Jew, it contrasts with the dominant narratives of the Shtetl, and the Jew as the downtrodden victim and represents a rare social strata inhabited by a merchant Jewish family fully integrated with the aristocracy of the day, living in the romantic tradition of 19th century European landed gentry oblivious to the imminent collapse of that world.

As an adult, this world discovered through his grandmother’s manuscript acted as a powerful call to action for Dan to enact the long held desire for return. The ensuing adventure explores and reveals the inner feelings connected to this heritage in an open and brutally frank manner.


“A tender, extraordinary underdog tale filled with humour, fear and above all, spirit Empire ****
“A barnstorming tale of vodka and revolutionLibby Purves, BBC Radio 4
“A work of outstanding originality” Michael Hayden, London Film Festival
Charming, inventive and lively” Time Out

Sunday Express
Empire Magazine
Hackney Citizen
British Film Institute
Jewish Chronicle
Evening Standard
The Independent