The Other Shore

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The Other Shore, a documentary film of Diana Nyad's quest to cross the Straits of Florida from Cuba to Florida
Diana Nyad swimming from Cuba, photo courtesy by Christi Barli
The Other Shore is a film about Diana Nyad's attempt to swim across the Florida Strait between Cuba and Florida, directed by Timothy Wheeler.

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Review

To be sure, the film includes plenty of training scenes, discussions of the perils of the trip and a history of Nyad's swimming career. But that's all merely icing on the dense layer cake that is Nyad herself. Her relentless pursuit of the Cuba-Florida swim is at once an inspiring story of dogged determination while also revealing the tragic costs of single-minded obsession.

At 60, after a 30-year hiatus from long-distance swimming, Nyad decides that she just can't let go of this one last goal. She starts training again for the grueling 103-mile swim from Cuba to Florida, fraught with perils including sharks, strong currents and the incredibly venomous box jellyfish. The scenes involving the latter are some the most harrowing moments of the film and a testament to Nyad's indomitable will.

The Other Shore is also a portrait of a human being at her most primal, nothing but will, bone and muscle. After several hours in the water, Nyad becomes a wild-eyed force of nature, only speaking in one-word sentences ("Hurts! Face! Spine!"). It's like watching a real-life Altered States as she transforms from homo sapiens to some early aquatic creature built only to keep fighting the current.

But as with William Hurt in Altered States, Nyad's obsessions are clearly taking a toll on her loved ones. Nor does she seem to be able to move forward with some aspects of her life or fully appreciate the incredibly rich tableau of her time as a successful sports figure and media personality. The "other shore" has become a metaphysical destination, one that might cost her dearly. To paraphrase one friend, "She may be trying to take her body to a place that only the spirit can go."

After the screening, co-producer Karen Christensen told me a bit of info left out of the movie that made the price all the more high: They'd been told by experts that even with all conditions perfect, Nyad's chances of success were about 4%. Small odds on which to gamble your future and stretch the commitment of your family and friends. Nyad seems somewhat in danger of becoming her namesake from Greek mythology. The naiad was a water creature that drowned those that fell in love with them.

The Other Shore director Timothy Wheeler uses a familiar formula to tell the tale. Open with a dramatic moment from late in the story, go back to the beginning and tell a linear narrative to arrive back at this suspenseful spot. But any lack of original structure is forgiven because he wisely chose not to let style overshadow substance. And what substance it is. As Nyad's nephew, Wheeler gains the most intimate of access to Nyad's personal history as a victim of serial sexual abuse, as well as some of the most painful moments of her quest, both physical and emotional.

Nyad has publicly stated that she's no longer swimming to work through her difficult past, but rather to prove that "60 is the new 40." After watching The Other Shore, though, one can't help but wonder whether she's not hoping to find her much younger self on that far horizon, free of pain and regret, ready to start her life anew.

Director

Timothy Wheeler is the Director/Cinematographer of The Other Shore. Having traveled and worked in 60+ countries, on every continent, Emmy-nominated cinematographer and documentary filmmaker, Wheeler, received his master’s at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and works with diverse clients producing content for Discovery, Animal Planet, PBS, The New York Times Co., truTV. Wheeler’s visual artistry and storytelling career was first inspired by his contribution to various human rights organizations and nonprofits, including Human Rights Watch and The Coalition Against the Use of Child Soldiers in Colombia. The Other Shore is an especially meaningful project to the director, as it chronicles his aunt’s intimate life story and harrowing return to marathon swimming after thirty years.

Producers

Kevin Abrams is the Co-Producer of The Other Shore. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, with a master’s degree from AFI, Abrams has worked in film and television for 15 years as editor, producer, and cinematographer. His work has appeared on PBS, Discovery, MTV, ABC, VH1, and Animal Planet. He was an editor on the Emmy-nominated Whale Wars and the Oscar-nominated documentary Daughter from Danang, and co-wrote the graphic novel Vendor. Kevin’s multimedia production company, Fairtrade Films, has produced films, music videos, and video games. He co-founded Ketchum Labs in 2011 with his partner, Patrick Weir.

Patrick Weir is the Co-Producer of The Other Shore. He began his career as a producer of advertising development at CNET Networks, where he and his team pioneered the first wave of Flash-based video and interactive advertising across CNET’s properties: CNET, ZDNet, GameSpot, and TechRepublic. He then joined Fox’s cable channel FUEL TV, where he produced the action sports unscripted series, Firsthand, and the studio daily show, The Daily Habit. He has since produced content for MSN, G4, NBC, Saatchi & Saatchi, Toyota, Red Bull, Mountain Dew, and Adidas. Patrick and Kevin Abrams founded Ketchum Labs in 2011.

Executive Producers

Bristol Baughan is the Co-Executive Producer of The Other Shore. She co-Founded Reason Pictures / GOOD Magazine in September 2004 to develop and produce content for people who give a damn. She executive produced the Academy Award Nominated Documentary WHICH WAY HOME directed by Rebecca Cammisa and BY THE PEOPLE: THE ELECTION OF BARACK OBAMA alongside Edward Norton. She produced the feature documentary RACING DREAMS by Oscar Nominated director Marshall Curry. RACING DREAMS won the jury prize for Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival 2009 and is being released in Sept. 2010. Dreamworks has optioned the remake rights to RACING DREAMS for Producers Kurtzman and Orci (TRANSFORMERS, STAR TREK). Baughan Executive Produced SON OF RAMBOW distributed by Paramount Vantage. Film credits also include THE POWER OF THE GAME directed by Michael Apted and released by National Geographic.

Erin Heidenreich is the Co-Executive Producer of The Other Shore. As one of the founders of Cinetic Media in 2001, she helped grow the company into the largest independent sales and financing outfit representing hundreds of successful and award winning and nominated films including SUPER SIZE ME, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS, SPELLBOUND, JESUS CAMP and NAPOLEON DYNAMITE. She began her career in marketing at Miramax Films. Heidenreich is a producer on several documentary and feature film projects in production. She is also directing a documentary about children currently suffering from exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. She is a Programmer for the BALINALE International Film Festival for her third year.

Production Company

Ketchum Labs was founded in 2011 by Kevin Abrams, Patrick Weir, and Maury Gallagher. Ketchum Labs is a company designed specifically to challenge the traditional ways content is produced and distributed by leveraging today’s advancements in digital filmmaking and applied technologies. Whether it’s 100% brand funded long form content, digital CrowdSelling of feature films, pioneering the Education Technology revolution or reshaping one of the longest running racecar organizations in history, Ketchum Labs is transforming the traditional content and distribution model one output at a time.

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