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Watermarks - The Jewish swimming champions who defied Hitler


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Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Letterboxed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English, German, Hebrew
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Kino Video
  • DVD Release Date: December 6, 2005
  • Run Time: 77 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000BFH2D2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #26,594 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features

None.

Editorial Reviews

Yaron Zilberman's wonderful, heartwarming Watermarks (Kevin Thomas, L.A. Times) narrates the story of the champion women swimmers of the legendary Vienna sports club Hakoah. Founded in 1909 in response to the notorious Aryan Paragraph, which forbade most Austrian grew into one of Europe's biggest athletic organizations - and its women's swim team virtually dominated national competitions in the 1930s. An uplifting tale of survival and friendship, Watermarks focuses on the stories of the club's surviving members, while also faithfully recounting a historical period where prejudice and violence forced these brave women into exile. Now, sixty-five years after their escape, seven of Hakoah's female swim team athletes leave their retrospective homes across the globe and re-unite for the first time at their old Vienna swimming pool. The result is so incredibly touching that Boston Globe critic Wesley Morris wrote, "The images of them swimming together after all those years are beautiful and a little holy: They look like angels in the water." Alternating between painstakingly researched historical footage and contemporary interviews with the women swimmer, Yaron Zilberman daringly re-connects the lives and memories of those who challenged the status quo and, for the occasion of his movie, bravely share their complex legacy of tolerance and integrity with future generations. "As these women tell their stories in a tone of wonderment," says New York Times film critic Stephen Holden, "Watermarks becomes more than a pointed footnote to the holocaust. It emerges as a surprisingly encouraging reflection on the distance between youth and advanced age.

Customer Reviews

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See all 13 customer reviews
They move like angels in water.
Gerard D. Launay
This is a wonderful film that encompasses topics such as women in sport, antisemitism in Austria in the 30s, and aging.
Gabriela Crane
Now almost 70 years later, a handful of them gather in Vienna to meet again and relive the best memories of the past.
Ronald Scheer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By J. Doralt on March 2, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
For those who have an interest in Jewish life in pre-World War II Vienna, this film is the best source for a glimpse into that world: a burgeoning world where Jews thrived and above all were happy, well-adjusted Viennese.

The women who tell their stories describe their childhoods and parents in early 20th century Vienna and participation in the great Jewish swim team, Hakoah - and the changes in Vienna that took place in the 1930s leading to their emigration to countries all over the world and the rude ending of their competitive swimming careers. The women's courage - and wit - come across beautifully. One sees the side of these women that is still Viennese (reciting Austrian verse by heart in a Mushav in Israel, singing along to songs by Leopoldi) while also seeing them in their homes of 50 years in the United States or Israel - where it becomes apparent that the women have since managed also to become American, Israeli, etc - whereever they ended up after the war. At the end of the film they return to Vienna to swim one more lap in the pool where they once competed.

You will cherish this film as a magnificently made documentary about an extraordinary group of women whose youth was spent in a place (thriving, burgeoning Jewish Vienna) that sadly no longer exists - but should never be forgotten.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Gerard D. Launay on February 6, 2006
Format: DVD
This is a film about remarkable people. In Vienna in the 1930's,

a Jewish sportsclub HAKOAH organized athletes in several categories but the most impressive were the women swimmers. In fact, one of these Jewish athletes was the best female swimmer in Austria. Nevertheless, at great "personal cost" to her, she

refused to go to Hitler's Berlin Oympics in 1936 and all her

records were stricken and she was forbidden to compete. 65 years later, 7 of these swimmers (now in their 80's) are brought together and they swim together, once more, in a famous Vienna pool. The Boston Globe remarked (correctly) that the images of these women in the pool is beautiful and a little bit holy. They move like angels in water. Their stories are fascinating and

the people glow with intelligence, warmth, and goodness. My friend and I both had tears by the end of the film.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Stephanie De Pue VINE VOICE on November 9, 2006
Format: DVD
"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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on December 13, 2007
Format: DVD
This documentary takes a footnote in sports history and wonderfully illuminates the human drama behind it. It's difficult to add to the glowing comments already made here about this film. Probably it's most remarkable achievement is the evocation of a time and place we already think we know well - the 1930s in Austria - where Jews have been traditionally banned from membership in sports clubs, and the anti-semitic rantings of Hitler are being embraced by a ready and willing public.

The existence of the Jewish sports organization, Hakoah, meant several things to the young women who became members of its Olympic-class swimming team at this critical point in European history. Watching the film, you marvel at how circumstance can dramatically shape the lives of individuals. In this case, it seizes them first out of anonymity and gives them identities as athletes; it introduces them to the growing Jewish community in Palestine that was to become Israel; then it saves them from the death camps by sending them in a last-minute diaspora to countries around the world where they live the rest of their lives - far from the middle-class Vienna that they had known and loved as young girls.

Now almost 70 years later, a handful of them gather in Vienna to meet again and relive the best memories of the past. Meanwhile, the ghost of that past also lives on, and the filmmakers do not shrink from including the most chilling of the memories as well. Worse still, the driver of a car service makes no secret of his own ambivalent opinion of Jews by referring to them unapologetically as "nonnatives." It's a fascinating film for its willingness to range across such a complex and difficult range of emotions. The DVD includes many extras including additional interview footage and deleted scenes.
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Watermarks - The Jewish swimming champions who defied Hitler
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