In “Channel Swimmers,” a low-budget docu that deserves positive strokes, director Jorg Adolph understands that, with marathon efforts like swimming the 22-mile-wide English Channel, slow and steady wins the race. Festival slots, as at Melbourne, may not be SRO, but audiences taking the plunge will be rewarded. Pubcasters should also get in the swim.
Film begins with Samoan swimmer Jose Mataafa and the dying moments of his unsuccessful crossing, which sees his senses and aquatic prowess at their lowest ebb. Docu’s second section concentrates on Canuck Bryan Finlay’s more conclusive attempt, which begins with a “Trainspotting”-like attention to planning but gradually culminates in a vivid portrait. Finlay’s venture takes up the most screen time, but the last section, centered on German swimmer Christof Wandratsch (who went on to break the world record on Aug. 1, 2005) provides a gripping finale. Visually, long-distance swimming may be hardly more dynamic than a chess game, but the sheer magnitude of the task makes this docu absorbing. Direction and DV lensing are perfunctory but catch the action, and other tech credits are rough. More captioning would aid identification of who’s who.