Against The Tides is the captivating story of British marathon swimmer and world record holder Beth French, and her quest to swim across the most dangerous open water crossings in the extreme challenge known as Oceans Seven. For marathon swimmers it is the ultimate test — the equivalent of climbing the Seven Summits in mountaineering — and very few people have ever completed it. Beth ups the ante with the goal to accomplish it in a single year which has never been done, even more unfathomable as she spent much of her youth in a wheelchair with a debilitating illness, unable to move.
The Oceans Seven consists of seven of the most unforgiving straits and channels around the world. There is The North Channel between Ireland and Scotland, 21 miles; The Cook Strait between New Zealand’s North and South Islands, 16 miles; The Molokai Channel between Molokai and Oahu, 27 miles; The English Channel between England and France, 21 miles; The Catalina Channel between Santa Catalina Island and Los Angeles, California, 21 miles; The Tsugaru Strait between the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido, 12 miles; and The Strait of Gibraltar between Spain and Morocco, 10 miles.
Cold water, warm water, sharks, jellyfish, tankers, unpredictable currents and swells… each crossing offers its own set of physical and mental challenges. Add to those the personal challenges Beth has faced throughout her life. Rather than deter, they motivate. Beth is driven by her desire to set an example for her autistic son and challenge herself in the water, in spite of her life-long battle with the auto immune disease Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Each swim can take up to 20 hours, often through the night and immersed by waves, but it is here that Beth is most comfortable: “Being in water gives me freedom. It’s where I belong.”
Against The Tides features a dramatic and unexpected climax, as Beth’s yearning to conquer the open sea comes into heart-rending conflict the needs of her son. The story is beautifully told and filmed, and takes us around the world in an emotional journey. It is film not to be missed, and is now available on demand on iTunes.
If the film leaves you wanting more, check out these three recent sport documentaries now streaming as well. All celebrate true stories of athletes who have overcome unimaginable obstacles to triumph against all odds.
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A SHOT IN THE DARK (2017)
A Shot in the Dark is the true story of Anthony Ferraro, a determined high school wrestler born blind, who despite his disability, sets the goal of winning the state championship in New Jersey his senior year. His older brother Oliver Ferraro documented the journey, shooting hundreds of hours of live footage, in the hopes of one day it becoming a film. Tragically, Oliver passed away before seeing his dream become a reality in the documentary A Shot in the Dark. Like Against The Tides, the movie has an unexpected ending. It also led to an unexpected development. The trailer caught the attention of the United States Paralympic committee, who invited Anthony to train in Judo to represent his country at the 2020 (now 2021) Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
TRUE NORTH: THE SEAN SWARNER STORY (2017)
True North: The Sean Swarner Story is a powerful documentary about one man’s relentless quest to prove that nothing is stronger than the human spirit. As a teenager, Sean Swarner was diagnosed twice with terminal cancer, first Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and then Askin’s Sarcoma. Each time he was given just weeks to live and each time he fought back to survive, but the radiation treatment left him with the use of just one lung. True North follows Sean on his quest to reach the North Pole and become the world’s first cancer survivor to complete the Explorer’s Grand Slam: climbing the highest peaks on all seven continents, and then hiking to the North and South Poles. Swarner has dedicated his mission to cancer patients he hopes to inspire, symbolized by a flag he carries with him and plants in each location. As Sean treks to the North Pole, across the brutal but beautiful, minus 40-degree frozen landscape, we see it is this “Mission of Hope” that keeps him going.
RISING PHOENIX (2020)
The Netflix documentary Rising Phoenix tells the story of not just one, but nine different disabled athletes highlighted through the Paralympic games. The film takes its name from one of these athletes, a fencer named Bebe Vio who is known as Rising Phoenix after she came back from meningitis, which required the amputation of both her arms and legs, to become a competitive fencer with prosthetics. There is an archer born without hands; a long jumper who lost a leg to a machete as a child, a victim of civil war in Burundi; and a wheelchair marathoner adopted from a Russian orphanage and raised in America, where in high school she fought for the rights of disabled athletes. Each athlete has their own unique and inspiring story, but at the heart of all is the drive to compete and shine on their sports’ biggest stage, the Paralympics. Prince Harry is featured in the documentary as a founder of the Invictus Games, passionately speaking about the athletic performances witnessed in the Paralympics rivaling any of those seen in the Olympic games. The history, challenges, and scandals of the Paralympics are documented as well.