Swimming Through: A documentary film about a trio of women and Promontory Point

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“As the local citizenry continues to battle for the preservation of Promontory Point’s limestone revetment, a trio of women are traveling the country to share a chilly-yet-heartwarming story underlining the Point’s unique value.

“‘Swimming Through,’ a new documentary film, tells the tale of three female, 50-plus Point swimmers who, immured by the first isolating winter of the pandemic, decided to persist in their daily sunrise dips. Braving the waves on windy days and sharing the frozen peace of calm ones, often slipping, cutting feet on ice, marveling together at the beauty of each unique sunrise, they find solace in the lake and in each other.

“Directed by Chicago filmmaker Samantha Sanders, “Swimming Through” is capturing awards at festivals hither and yon. Two of the swimmers, Jennefer Hoffmann and Deirdre Hamill-Squiers, hit the road with Sanders last weekend to promote the 15-minute short film. They had to choose between the screenings in New Orleans and in Ojai, California. The short premiered at Chicago’s Doc10 Film Festival in May, winning the Audience Award, and took Best Documentary at the Lake Placid Film Festival in New York last month.

“A seasoned filmmaker and educator, Sanders told the Herald she’d been shooting photographs and video of the winter lakescape for fun long before she heard about the Point swimmers. The women’s story became her ‘passion project’ in February 2021, after she read about them in a column on the front page of the Sunday Chicago Tribune. She undertook the project with her husband, John Farbrother, as editor and Hyde Parker Ben Kolak as cinematographer.

“Expertly paced, the film successfully condenses a complex story of isolation, grief and resilience into a tiny nutshell. A synergy of images, music and narrative conveys both the immense majesty of the lake and the enveloping emotions of the three women featured.

“Designed by famed landscape architect Alfred Caldwell and completed in 1937, the Point is a place where you can not only dip into the lake, but also ‘feel its history literally under your feet,’ Hoffman said in an interview.

“A luminous essay published last spring by Newcity Magazine encapsulates much of this magic, calling the Point ‘a perfect jewel box of a park’

“‘(Caldwell) wanted the Point to express ‘a sense of the power of nature and the power of the sea’…From this elevated crop of land, the view of our great inland sea, Lake Michigan, is unimpeded and spectacular…. You can find communities of swimmers up and down Chicago’s lakefront, but whether or not he intended to, in the Point Caldwell created a home for them.'” (Holliday, Hyde Park Herald, 11/7/22)

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