Cheryl Furjanic’s debut feature doc had its world premiere at Slamdance in 2008 and went on to have a healthy festival run, including screenings at Silverdocs, Hot Springs, Big Sky, and MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight. It also picked up the Billie Award for Journalism from the Women’s Sports Foundation in 2009.

I’ve known Cheryl since NewFest programmed her clever short, BAR TALK, in 2002. Her labor of love, SYNC OR SWIM, follows synchronized swimmer hopefuls in their quest to make the 2004 Olympics team, detailing the entire process, from training for the qualifying trials to making the final team and competing in the Olympic Games. Along the way, Furjanic covers the origins of the sport, still the subject of derision, and includes the patron saint of synchronized swimming, Esther Williams. Unexpected drama comes in the form of one teammate’s involvement in a fatal car accident, which leads to media scrutiny and additional stress for the entire team before their trip to Athens. While regular readers of this blog know I’m no big fan of sports docs, this particular sport is still so marginalized that this insider look is appreciated. The Olympics make for a fitting structuring device – even if fans of the sport already know the outcome, new converts may not have paid much attention to the Games’ results, and SYNC OR SWIM certainly should function as a goodwill ambassador for the sport.

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