The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival It was supposed to be a hybrid event this season, but omicron has forced it to be all virtual this year. Included in the lineup is the sexy LGBTQ-themed film, “The Swimmer.”
It’s directed by Adam Kalderon and is based on his own personal experiences as a competitive swimmer on the Israeli swimming team. The central figure is Erez, a young swimmer who attends a training camp where the winner gets a prestigious chance to participate in the Olympic Games. Erez’s attention gets sidetracked, however, when he meets Nevo, a beautiful and talented fellow swimmer. Erez’s coach does not believe in fraternizing with other competitors, which adds even more pressure.
When he wrote the script, it was important to Kalderon for the audience to be put into a very specific bubble — that of the elite swimmers’ program.
“I wanted to be truthful as much as I can to stay close to reality,” he said. “The rest of the swimmers arrive to become the best swimmers that they can. Erez arrives because he has to survive and blend in and be good in a sport that is considered manly, which can give him freedom to live his life as he wants. Erez is in 99 percent of the scenes. It was important to show his unique point of view.”
Meeting Nevo takes Erez’s mind off competition. It’s his first time falling for another man.
“The world around him becomes slow motion and his instincts take over without him even knowing what’s going on,” Kalderon said. “I know that there are a lot of people who can relate, especially young people, that suddenly you can go from zero to 100 and nothing can ever be the same again. He is falling in love and doesn’t know it yet.”
An interesting dynamic takes place between Erez and his coach, who is also a foreigner and is also experiencing being locked in this institution like Erez.
“Erez can see in him the reflection of what will happen if you will not follow your heart and your real passion, if you will try and stay the person driven by power and gold medals and politics,” Kalderon said. “Both of them are locked in the same castle.”
Just as in other areas of life, Kalderon feels there is homophobia in the swimming world. While there is progress in many fields, there is much more to do.
“I feel it in my skin on a daily basis,” he said. “I don’t think people will throw stones at me. I grew up at a much more homophobic time and it’s rooted in me as well, so I say there is so much more to do. I decided to become a director because this is where I feel I can spotlight subjects that are close to my heart. I want to raise my voice that will let me make a change.”
Finding lead actor Omer Perelman Striks was a long process. Kalderon and his team went to several acting schools in his pursuit.
“It’s a gay character, which narrowed the opportunities,” he said. “It was important that the lead actor be gay. We needed to find the best actor who could act like a swimmer and have this aura of an elite sport. Our lead actor took to his part. He took it all the way and is so talented. I was very happy that it happened this way in the end.”
“The Swimmer” contains a much-discussed dance sequence, of sorts. It took the director a while to nail it, to give another interpretation to what a victory means for Erez. “I didn’t feel that swimming was the real issue at the moment. Is winning just about medals, or can you find other things?”
Two other LGBTQ short films are also included this year in the AJFF lineup — “Bracha” and “In the Image of God.”