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THE ORIGINAL MERMAID

Australia, 2002 (MIFF 2003, Australian Showcase)

Director: Michael Cordell

A lyrical underwater sequence lures us into this enchanting tale of a vivacious and headstrong woman who was fearlessly ahead of her time.The achievements of Australian pioneer Annette Kellerman—swimmer, diver, vaudeville entertainer, silent movie star and lifestyle guru—are inspiring, in fact almost beyond belief.

Learning to swim to recover from a childhood bout of rickets, Kellerman soon learnt that her impressive dives and swimming strokes could entertain people. She also began distance swimming, conquering the Yarra, the Thames, the Seine, and eventually the English Channel. Moving into hugely successful vaudeville spectaculars and silent movies, Kellerman was, in the 1910s and 20s, one of the most famous women on earth. In the 1950s, Hollywood even honoured her with a biopic, Million Dollar Mermaid (starring Esther Williams).

Supported by some delightful, restored footage from her life, filmmaker Michael Cordell has created a fascinating picture of another era and a woman who forged her own path through it. Annette's boundless determination and her joyous relationship with water is not so widely known today.This vibrant and touching film is a timely celebration of a wonderful character.

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