Film fest dives into gay content with sexy ‘Swimmer’

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One of the largest film festivals of its kind in the world, Atlanta Jewish Film Festival opens its 2022 festival tonight. The always LGBTQ-inclusive fare this year brings ‘The Swimmer’ to the screen.

The Israeli film screens virtually throughout the festival. Online tickets are available for purchase on the festival website through Feb. 27. Other films tagged for LGBTQ interest during AJFF include the lesbian-themed feature “Bracha,” and the documentary short, “In the Image of God.”

On its surface, “The Swimmer’s” sensual indulgence in college-age male bodies will attract many a gay gaze. But when he dives in, writer-director Adam Kalderon offers a deeper depiction of toxic masculinity and anti-gay discrimination in sports.

The gay protagonist, Erez, arrives at a training camp with the other Top 5 swimmers in all of Israel. Only one can make the Olympic team, and Erez is a favorite to take the spot. He falls for fellow contender Nevo and yearns for more than friendship.

 

Omer Perelman Striks (right) plays Erez, and Asaf Jonas plays Nevo in “The Swimmer.”

Oh, the drama

The coach senses the attraction and openly discriminates against Erez, but a lovable groundskeeper embraces Erez’s identity. Between those opposing forces and on his way to greater self-acceptance, our hero navigates his emotions, his libido, and a camp full of built, boisterous straight athletes.

Presented in Hebrew with English subtitles, the film includes some endearing moments and some memorable supporting characters. There are also several moments of enjoyable gay camp, including a strange-but-lovable finale that you won’t see coming.

Still, there’s a culture clash for American audiences. Many may view the anti-gay discrimination in Israel as dated, the attempted seduction of a straight boy as old hat, and several poor decisions on Erez’s part as negative tropes and caricatures of the past.

All said, come for the sexy twinks and stay for the drama and characters. Afterwards, remember “The Swimmer” more for its thought-provoking ideas than their execution.

“The Swimmer” screens online now through Sept. 27. View the full schedule of Atlanta Jewish Film Festival.

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