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The Cinema of the Swimming Pool


Edited By Christopher Brown and Pam Hirsch

The swimming pool frequently appears in film not merely as a setting but as a dynamic site where social, political, cultural and aesthetic forces converge. What is it about this space that has so fascinated filmmakers and what kinds of cinematic investigations does it encourage? This collection features essays by an eclectic, international range of film researchers. Amongst the works analysed are classics such as The Cameraman (1928), The Philadelphia Story (1940) and La Piscine (1969); cult hits such as The Swimmer (1968) and Deep End (1970); and more recent representations of the pool in Water Lilies (2007), Sea Point Days (2009) and Ausente (2011). The pool is considered as a realm where artifice meets nature, where public meets private, where sexualities morph and blend; and as a space that reconfigures the relationship between architecture and narrative, in which themes of pollution, spectacle and reflexivity find unique expression. Approaching the swimming pool from a wide range of methodological perspectives, the essays in this collection stake a claim for the enduring significance of this exciting cinematic space.
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16 Swimming in Post-apartheid Cape Town: Sea Point Days (2009)

François Verster’s documentary Sea Point Days (South Africa, 2009) introduces a complex of municipal swimming pools in Cape Town as its narrative, aesthetic and symbolic anchor. This essay will explore the swimming pool and its environs as a space where social, political and aesthetic forces converge, in the specific context of post-apartheid South Africa. A long-term project, Sea Point Days was shot and edited between 2004 and 2008. In the words of the director, a white, male South African, the film deals ‘partly with racial, social, religious and power relations, identity and perceptions in the not-so-new South Africa as experienced or displayed in a transformed public space.’1

Sea Point is a suburb of Cape Town, located on the city’s Atlantic seaboard, sandwiched between Signal Hill and the ocean. Initially racially mixed, it became one of the white-only areas under apartheid. Michele Paulse writes that ‘in the 1950s the National Party intensified the racial separation that for decades characterized life in South Africa. The Group Areas Act of 1950 legislated separate residential areas and in 1957 the government ordered the removal of people of colour from Sea Point.’2

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