Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Watch this movie. Now.



I'm prepping for the Oscars but I took time out to watch a documentary film about swimming today, and I'm glad I did. If you swim, are a woman, and/or are Jewish (I fit all three categories), or you just plain have a heart (usually I'm good there too), watch this movie. It makes you feel proud to be a swimmer and lucky to be alive. The following is from an amazon.com review. I second it!

"Watermarks" is a remarkable documentary, as remarkable as the women whose stories it tells. It harkens back to early 20th century Vienna, Austria, a time when the Jewish community was well-settled, prosperous, and largely assimilated, and tells the true story of Hakoah, a Jewish sports club, the largest membership sports club in the world. We mainly learn about the women's swim team: they are charming, intelligent, high-spirited, and as independent as the times allow them to be. These women were athletes, and in the old footage, you can see that they just loved to swim: there's even a lot of footage of their happily diving into the Danube River, which, at that time, must have been as unpleasant an open sewer as most of the world's other major urban rivers.

During the 1930's,three of these women were ranked the numbers 1-2-3- Austrian swimmers. They had to make a choice about participation in the 1936 Olympics, in Hitler's Germany, and chose not to attend. The Austrian Sports Board thereupon stripped them of their titles. Of course, there was worse to come, but these Viennese women were quite sophisticated enough to recognize that: they,and their families all got out of Austria in time. They follow their motto "Say yes to life," in exile, and prove every bit as remarkable as they were at home. Finally, as part of the making of this documentary, the remaining women who were able to travel reassemble in Vienna, and take one more swim in the great and beautiful sports hall of their youthful triumphs. There's sheer joy as they slip into the water again; and not a dry eye in the house."

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