Watermarks Yaron Zilberman

The well-intentioned but ultimately sleepy documentary Watermark documents the Hakoah sports club, a large, dynamic Jewish sports organisation that flourished in Austria before World War II. Founded in 1909 in response to an article in Aryan Paragraph that forbade Austrian sports clubs from accepting Jewish members, the film traces the story of the club's champion women swimmers, flashing back and forth from the women today and pictures of their youthful selves. Though the Holocaust predictably ended the club's reign, its members were able to escape continental Europe, emigrating around the globe and some 65 years later, director Yaron Zilberman reunites the surviving members for a dip in the Viennese swimming pool that played host to many of their finest physical accomplishments. Viewers with a predisposed derision for documentaries that employ staged reunions for the camera may want to flee (VH1 Bands Reunited, anyone?) but what Watermarks manages to do is approach the Holocaust from a fresh, intimate perspective. Zilberman's use of vintage photos and footage of the swimmers is magnetic and provides texture for his film, but he revels in the women's stunning physical grace with a flirtatiousness that borders on fawning. His audience might have been better served by the inclusion of any one of the deleted scenes or additional interviews that are included in the special features, or even a director's commentary, as it might have answered some of the more loaded topics that were brought up by his subjects but skirted over. Altogether too much of the film is devoted to home-video-level footage of nice old grandma types kibitzing about the past and not enough to responding to questions, such as why he subjected a dozen Jewish women who narrowly survived the Holocaust to a cabaret version of "The Buchenwald March," a concentration camp work song? While Watermarks aspires to warm the soul, it succeeds, ultimately only in numbing the mind. Plus: extra scenes, optional English and Spanish subtitles and additional interviews. (Mongrel Media)