Big Bad Swim
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A beginner's adult swim class at a Connecticut recreation center attracts a diverse group of strangers in Ishai Setton's visually arresting debut feature. Amy (Paget Brewster) is a high school math teacher who is in danger of losing both her job and her husband Paul (Grant Aleksander), who is having an affair with another teacher. Amy enrolls in the swim class in order to make new friends, and she immediately befriends Jordan (Jess Weixler), a younger woman who deals blackjack at Mohegan Sun and moonlights as a stripper. Jordan gradually finds herself attracted to handsome swim instructor Noah (Jeff Branson), a former Olympic hopeful who has problems of his own. Rounding out the class are a prosperous couple, a mother and daughter, a competitive young woman who also has her eye on Noah, a new mother who has never felt comfortable in a bathing suit, and a cop. Meanwhile, Jordan's brother David (Avi Setton) and his friend Hunter (Ricky Ullman) are making a documentary about Jordan for David's English class, and their documentary may turn out to be more revealing than they had planned. Daniel Schechter's screenplay probes the everyday loneliness of ordinary lives, the joy of finding love where you least expect it, and the emotional strength that comes with overcoming your fears and just diving into the pool-and life-head first.
Director's Statement Collapse
While researching The Big Bad Swim, producer Chandra Simon and I were given the opportunity to go sit in on an actual adult swim class. We sat with notebooks in hand, ready to write down all the little nuances that we hoped would eventually make their way into the film. At first the students stood in the water, clutching the sides of the pool. The pool was huge, yet the people stood close to one another, tucked into a corner of the expansive space. This was their second lesson, and we watched them learn how to blow bubbles. The teacher's patient instruction calmed some of them as they lowered their heads tentatively into the water and pulled them back out again. One woman was gripping the wall so tightly it seemed her fingernails had dug into the tile. I couldn't write anything in my notebook; I was so compelled by the nervous energy before me. However, as the class went on, tensions eased. The students had a break and some of them didn't want to leave the water. They splashed each other, fooled around with kickboards, and played "dead." But that wasn't everyone; one woman leaped out of the pool and refused to get back in the water. I put my notebook down and, enthralled, watched our film's characters come to life. The Big Bad Swim is a film about real people: contemporary Americans struggling and striving to connect to themselves and to others. Each character enters the swim class the way we enter society: with a mixture of fear, loneliness, excitement, and dread. As they navigate their way across the vast pool, despite the terror of entering deep water, the students tease and help each other, forming a community of sorts. Eventually, most of them learn to trust their fellow classmates and to conquer their fear together. Learning to swim becomes a source of accomplishment, pride, enjoyment, and thrills. After all, each may have signed up for the swim class for their own peculiar and mysterious reasons, but now they're all in the water together, staring the wolf in the eyes. Once upon a time, wasn't it known as the big bad swim?
Film Information Collapse
[BIGBA] | 2006 | 92 | Narrative Feature
Directed by: Ishai Setton
Foreign Title: (The Big Bad Swim)
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About the Director(s)Collapse
Ishai Setton graduated from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts in 2001. His thesis film, The Butcher and the Housewife, a short hard-rock musical set in the glittering metropolis of Allentown, PA, screened at many festivals, including the Seattle, Gen Art, Houston, and Rhode Island International festivals. Dinerama 2000, his half-hour documentary about diners and their biggest fans, has appeared on television and at many festivals. Ishai also recently served as producer for the feature-length documentary Ocho Candelas. The film follows a community of converted Jews in Veracruz, Mexico, and was awarded a Joyce Award for Achievement in Documentary. Ishai is currently at work on a screenplay that combines his greatest passions: spring break, French toast, and outlet malls. The Big Bad Swim is his feature-length directorial debut.