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Watermarks - Movie Synopsis & Plot

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Watermarks is the story of the champion women swimmers of the legendary Jewish sports club, Hakoah Vienna. Hakoah ("The Strength" in Hebrew) was founded in 1909 in response to the notorious Aryan Paragraph, which forbade Austrian sports clubs from accepting Jewish athletes. Its founders were eager to popularize sport among a community renowned for such great minds as Freud, Mahler and Zweig, but traditionally alien to physical recreation. Hakoah rapidly grew into one of Europe's biggest athletic clubs, while achieving astonishing success in many diverse sports. In the 1930s Hakoah's best-known triumphs came from its women swimmers, who dominated national competitions in Austria. After the Anschluss, the political unification of Nazi Germany and Austria in 1938, the Nazis shut down the club, but the swimmers managed to flee the country before the war broke out, thanks to an escape operation organized by Hakoah's functionaries.

Sixty-five years later, director Yaron Zilberman meets the members of the women's swim team in their homes around the world, and arranges for them to have a reunion in their old swimming pool in Vienna, a journey that evokes memories of youth, femininity, and strengthens lifelong bonds. Told by the swimmers, now in their eighties, Watermarks is about a group of young girls with a passion to be the best. It is the saga of seven outstanding athletes who still swim daily as they age with grace.

Watermarks visits Trude (Platcek) Hirschler, the Israeli co-chairperson of Hakoah veterans' organization; Elisheva (Schmidt) Susz, a renowned child psychotherapist from Tel-Aviv; Hanni (Deutsch) Lux who tells the story of her sister, Judith (Deutsch) Haspel, Austria's greatest swimmer who paid dearly for her refusal to compete in the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Berlin; Greta (Wertheimer) Stanton, a professor of sociology from New-Jersey; the elegant Ann-Marie (Pick) Pisker from London; Anni (Wagner) Lampl from LA who despite being visually impaired insisted on joining this reunion; and Nanne (Winter) Selinger, from New York, who was the only swimmer to return to live in Vienna; she left when Kurt Waldheim was elected president.

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