Eastbourne features in biopic of pioneering swimmer

Eastbourne, Hastings and Newhaven were among the filming locations for the remarkable story of a forgotten heroine which takes to the big screens across the nation after an exclusive preview screening in Worthing.
Elliott Hasler - Photographer Adriaan Van HeerdanElliott Hasler - Photographer Adriaan Van Heerdan
Elliott Hasler - Photographer Adriaan Van Heerdan

Vindication Swim from Brighton-based film director Elliott Hasler offers a biopic of Mercedes Gleitze. Also a Brighton native, Gleitze was the first British woman to swim the English Channel.

Worthing’s Dome Cinema is hosting the Sussex premiere of Vindication Swim with a Q&A session with director Elliott and lead actress Kirsten Callaghan on Thursday, March 7 at 5.30pm, with screenings continuing the following week. The film gets its national release in cinemas on March 8.

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Thanks to the pandemic, the whole thing has been a long time coming. Filming started in August 2019. Elliott wrote the script a year or so before that.

“I just stumbled on the story in an article. I had never heard of her before and that just seems a real shame given what she did. I was captivated by her story, by her sense of resilience and by her determination and her drive never to give up on her dream. She was confronting so much prejudice at the time. It is hard enough for women now but when you think back to 1926 and 1927 when she was trying to do what she did, it must have been enormous.”

Elliott sensed a connection with her. They were born a century apart. She was born in the year 1900 and he was born in 2000. They were both born in Brighton, Gleitze to German parents.

“Almost straight away I knew I wanted to make the film when I read about her English Channel attempt in 1927 when she finally did it. I wrote the script but there was quite a long period of getting the story together. There was not much about her. There weren't a lot of resources. A lot of the stuff I had to pick up from old newspaper articles.”

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Luckily the scenes involving big numbers of extras had been shot by the time the pandemic arrived: “But then after that we had to contend with various lockdowns and the whole thing put us back about a year. But I'm very pleased with it. It has certainly been a labour of love and for the film to have a theatrical release all around the UK and Ireland is really exciting.”

A lot of the film was made in Worthing which is why Elliott is so pleased to be able to hold the Sussex premiere there, but there was also filming in Brighton and Eastbourne and Hastings and all the sea scenes were done out of Newhaven.

It's an exciting moment now knowing that the world will see the film before long: “It will get a bit more nerve-racking as March 7 and 8 approach. To be releasing this thing that I have been sitting on for the best part of four years is pretty nerve-racking but that's why the film was made in the first place – to be shown to people. It will have a digital release later in the spring as well. We're just negotiating that at the moment.”