Swimmers In The Sand
director   Kurt Mayer
dop Helmut Wimmer
music Rupert Huber
editor   Charlotte Müller
format   97 Minuten
executive producers Epo-Film Wien, Kurt Mayer Film, Wien
broadcasted 2001, ORF, ARTE
The true life story and adventures of László Almásy, the “English patient,” who crossed Africa in 1929 with the father of filmmaker Kurt Mayer: These events provide the motivation and outline for a critical journey through “men’s domains” in Cairo, London and Vienna. Navigation in the expanses of the memory—the dream of flying, documents from the war and of an unrequited love...

Myths from childhood, conveyed by a father’s stories, the anecdotes of a well-known newsreel cameraman, and preserved in old cans containing a documentary shot on highly flammable nitrocellulose film: This provided filmmaker Kurt Mayer with inspiration and an outline for his search. The restored film, which premiered in Vienna in 1996 on the same day as The English Patient, is the sole document of the real László Almásy and his intrepid crossing of Sudan in 1929.

But László Almásy, the hero of Ondaatje’s bestselling novel and the protagonist of the Oscar-winning Hollywood film, is not only part of a family history. Almásy’s controversial personality, his adventures and discoveries provide a motivation to undertake a critical journey through “men’s domains” of the 20th century which includes stops in Cairo, London and Vienna.

Original footage shot in the year 1929, letters, diary entries and the filmmaker’s thoughts on his modern trek accompany this journey to a magical world where history was written. The expedition begins in Cairo and crosses the Libyan Desert to the sites of Almásy’s great discoveries and adventures. The often contradictory stories told by former intelligence agents and other contemporaries and descriptions of the filmmaker’s own experiences provide commentary along the way. “Navigation” through the expanses of the memory.

At the end of this journey through myth and history, the story-teller is left with a question: Have I learned to fly, am I now the “pilot of my own dreams”?

Swimmers in the Desert is an attempt to comprehend history in a clear, personal approach on the water, across the desert and in the air. The past is examined from

Quotes “We’re hunting elephants today. They’re as numerous as grains of sand on the beach, I’ve already seen nearly one hundred and fifty but not one that was worth the ammunition! I still got a beautiful trophy, 50 meters of film! I took the unlucky cameraman Rudi Mayer to less than 80 steps from a herd. They then became angry and started to chase me. The cameraman got his revenge by filming me as I ran from the herd, yelling and firing warning shots. I now have very little interest in these herds!”
László Almásy, Bor, Sudan, April 11, 1929

“Revolving,” say the dervishes of Omdurman, “is the fundamental condition of our existence.”

“I miss you! Could we go away for a few days? Where there is a panorama for the eyes and space to be close and no morning to end things, where there is time to look at one another and for our spirits and bodies to play?”
Kurt Mayer, Cairo, October 2, 1999

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