WATERMARKS (Unrated, 77 minutes)
Yes, its subject matter is the Nazi suppression of Jewish athletes in the 1930s, and yes, it's a moving testament to the human need to triumph over adversity. But what finally distinguishes this documentary -- pushing it to the edge of ineffability and beyond -- is a single marvelous scene, in which seven women, all former stars of the legendary Hakoah swim team, take a dip in their old Vienna pool. Reunited by director Yaron Zilberman in this place of past glories, the women -- a few of whom held world swimming records in their day, only to see their achievements erased from the books upon Hitler's rise -- are now in their eighties, a formerly inseparable group of girls dispersed by the Anschluss to the four corners of the globe. There is Ann-Marie, who left for London; and Anni, who went to Los Angeles; Elisheva in Tel Aviv; and Nanne, who returned to Vienna after the war (until 1986, that is, when Kurt Waldheim was elected president of Austria, at which point she immigrated to New York). Period footage, aided immeasurably by steel-trap reminiscence, captures the swimmers' rise to the heights of Viennese celebrity and then the terrifying swiftness with which it all ended, a tale that's equal parts inspiring and awful. But it is when the women hit the pool again, ancient limbs undulating with an impossible grace, that the complexity of the Hakoah story becomes truly apparent. Etched into the swimmers' faces are scars of humiliation and exile, and yet here they are: bruised, yes, but unsinkable, too. Contains nothing objectionable. At the Cinema Arts Fairfax.
-- Scott Vogel