Watermarks

on January 21, 2005 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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Some 65 years after they were forced to leave Austria, a group of Jewish women athletes return to where it all began. "Watermarks" is the inspiring story of Hakoah Vienna, a Jewish athletic club formed in 1909 as a reaction to anti-Semitic policies that kept Jews out of gentile clubs in the country. The goal of Hakoah (which means strength in Hebrew) was to prove that Jewish athletes could hold their own against their Christian counterparts, dispelling stereotypes of the weak Jew in the process. Hakoah succeeded in spades, with many of its members, in particular the women's swim team, dominating Austrian sports competitions in the 1930s. But the Anschluss, the Nazis' annexation of Austria in 1938, ended all that and forced the Hakoah members to flee for their lives.

Reuniting seven of the women swimmers, all in their 80s, "Watermarks" lets them tell their history and that of their tumultuous era, illustrated with archival clips, interviews and footage of them revisiting their old haunts in Vienna.

Though choppy in the way its chronology is laid out and lacking key information about the fate of some of the Hakoah members, "Watermarks" succeeds in bringing a forgotten part of history to life. Best of all, it introduces us to some genuinely remarkable individuals who made a significant difference in their time and place. Directed, written and produced by Yaron Zilberman. A Kino release. Documentary. English-, Hebrew- and German-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 77 min

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