Vindication Swim: new film celebrates Mercedes Gleitze

In cinemas from 8 March, Vindication Swim is a beautiful celebration of overcoming the odds

A young single woman, living alone in London in the 1920s, Mercedes Gleitze dreamed of becoming the first English woman to swim across the English Channel. But, with seven failed attempts behind her and struggling to raise funds through her job as a typist, the odds were stacked against her. Her unmarried status, working-class background and German heritage put further barriers in her path.

Despite these barriers, Mercedes found a way and swam from France to England in 1927, immediately attracting glittering celebrity status. But it didn’t last long. A rival swimmer claimed to have also swum the Channel but was shown to be a fraud, and this threw doubt on Mercedes’ achievement.

To prove the doubters wrong, Mercedes declared she would do the swim again.

This, in brief, is the plot of Vindication Swim, a new film inspired by Mercedes’ swimming legacy, which will be released in cinemas around the UK, Ireland and Malta on 8 March, in celebration of International Women’s Day.

We were invited to the film’s premiere in Mayfair on 28 February, where we met writer and director Elliot Hasler and some of the cast. The story behind the film is almost as epic as the film itself. Elliot was only 18 when he wrote the script and 20 when he started shooting. Filming took place during the pandemic. On a limited budget and without access to swimming tanks and special effects, all the swimming scenes were recorded on location in the English Channel. Kirsten Callaghan, who plays Mercedes, does the swimming herself while wearing authentic period swimming costumes. The phrase “nothing great is easy” comes to mind.

For anyone with an interest in swimming and swimming history, the film is a delight. While parts of the story have been changed or embellished for dramatic purposes, at its core is Mercedes’ true story of grit, determination and succeeding against the odds.

Watch the trailer for Vindication Swim

Find a showing near you and read more about the film.

Back in 2016, Doloranda Pember, Mercedes Gleitze’s daughter, shared her mother’s story with Outdoor Swimmer (H2Open back then). You can read that here.

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.