Based around his own inability to swim, the film stars Ed, a black British man, who after watching a worrying news report about flooding, develops an acute phobia of water.
The film explores the taboos that exist between the black community and swimming both through Ed’s dramatisation of his battles with these taboos – which are personified as a voice in his head called ‘Mr Society’ – and real interviews with members of the black community voicing their thoughts.
The release of the film reflects recent figures from Sport England which show that 95% of black adults and 80% of black children in England do not swim, as well there being a higher risk of drowning among ethnic minority communities.
Released to a global audience via the streaming service Amazon Prime, the film addresses the reasoning behind these figures and explicitly highlights the taboos and misconceptions surrounding the black community and swimming.
“The film highlights some of the most popular myths,” says Ed. “Some of the reasons we hear include social issues, such as generational fear, lack of accessibility, aquaphobia, historic fear of drowning, hair and the one that keeps on coming up, bone density.”
Discussing his own reasons why he couldn’t swim, Ed reveals that he had succumbed to the same taboos. “Not being able to swim had never been an issue to me; not consciously anyway. If swimming ever came up in conversation, I would say ‘of course I can’t swim, I’m black’. I hid behind the stereotype and the stigmas. I am sure at one point in my life I started to believe that I couldn’t swim because I was black.”
The idea for the film came to Ed when he was the only person who couldn’t swim whilst on a boat trip on holiday with friends and family. When he began to think about this, the film White Men Can’t Jump came to him and he had the idea that someone should make a song on why “blacks can’t swim” and whether is it a “cultural or physical thing”. Ed made a song based on that initial idea, and the film then developed from there.
With the help of award-winning filmmaker Mysterex, A Film Called Blacks Can’t Swim, the trailer for the film was released on 4 December 2018 and received a lot of interest. “It went mad,” Ed says. “I was just talking about my personal life, then all of a sudden I was thrown into this world with professional swimmers. I thought to myself: if this trailer has had such an impact, then I have to release this.”
The pilot for the film was released last year and has subsequently been praised by the likes of film director and actor, Noel Clarke, DJ Semtex, actor Colin Salmon, former Jamaican Olympic swimmer Janelle Atkinson, Team USA’s Paralympic Swimmer Jamal Hill and many more.
After contacting a production company in America, Ed has now been able to release the film to a global audience. The film is now available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video and will soon be available on other streaming services in a number of languages. All profits made from the film will go to the Black Swimming Association.
Ed hopes the film will continue to inspire wider community-led conversations, encourage people to confront their fears, address stereotypes and dispel the myths that exist between the black community and water-based activities.