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INDEPENDENT LENS: Men Who Swim

Airs Sunday, January 9, 2011 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Swimmers from Sweden's all-male synchronized swimming team perform "The Flower."

"Men Who Swim" is a humorous and poignant look at a group of men of a certain age in Stockholm who have found unlikely fellowship as members of Sweden’s all-male synchronized swim team. What began as a weekly escape from the daily grind of work and family responsibilities, gradually evolved into a more serious commitment. By day, they are train conductors and meat buyers, archivists and teachers; but by evening, they channel Esther Williams and become earnest and passionate exponents of the sport.

Stockholm Swim Art Gents Group photo.
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Above: Stockholm Swim Art Gents Group photo.

Swimmers perform "The Raft."
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Above: Swimmers perform "The Raft."

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How did you — or will you — handle your mid-life crisis? Did you reinvent yourself, change careers, or pick up a new hobby? Do you think you are more or less self-confident than you were at 20? Share your story

After initially believing themselves to be the only all-male synchronized swim team in the world, they’re surprised to discover that other countries also have teams including Japan, Ukraine, Holland, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Italy, and Spain. And the first-ever All Male World Championship in the sport is coming up soon.

The team enters the competition, but they quickly realize they will have to train hard if they are to have a chance at the medals. Drama flares as their competitive spirit collides with differing opinions about how to train and who is in charge. Slowly, a competition-caliber routine comes together.

Not only are the men anticipating the championships, but most of the team is also looking down the barrel at milestone birthdays. More than half will turn 40 during the year they first compete on the world stage (or in the world pool, as it were). They are all, in their own ways, taking stock of their lives, measuring their achievements to this point, and wondering what the future might hold.

"Men Who Swim" looks at what it means to be part of a team, but also what it is to be an individual at a crucial time in one’s life. Ultimately, the film is about realizing that maybe you’ve already got everything you ever wanted.

"Men Who Swim" is on Facebook.

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Video Excerpt: Independent Lens: Men Who Swim

Above: This program is a humorous and poignant look at a group of middle-aged men who have found unlikely success as members of Sweden's all-male synchronized swimming team. In this clip, the team struggles with "the Lift" in order to take it to the next level. In the midst of a mid-life crisis, filmmaker Dylan Williams tries to cheer himself up by joining an all-male synchronized swim team. He discovers a dozen other men struggling with the indignities of age and the uncertainty of a life half-lived in this look at an unlikely brotherhood of beer bellies, wet suits, and occasional underwater grace.

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Video Excerpt: Men Who Swim: Popaganda Festival, Stockholm

Above: Are the members of the Stockholm Arts Swim Gents "man" enough to give up wetsuits? In the midst of a mid-life crisis, filmmaker Dylan Williams tries to cheer himself up by joining an all-male synchronized swim team. He discovers a dozen other men struggling with the indignities of age and the uncertainty of a life half-lived in this look at an unlikely brotherhood of beer bellies, wet suits, and occasional underwater grace. Find out more about "Men Who Swim."

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Video Extra: Independent Lens: Men Who Swim

Above: In the midst of a mid-life crisis, filmmaker Dylan Williams tries to cheer himself up by joining an all-male synchronized swim team. He discovers a dozen other men struggling with the indignities of age and the uncertainty of a life half-lived in this look at an unlikely brotherhood of beer bellies, wet suits, and occasional underwater grace. On the championship tour, friendships flourish and stereotypes are dispelled. Find out more about "Men Who Swim."