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#HotDocs23 Review: Unsyncable

May 3, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The 2023 Hot Docs Film Festival runs from April 27th to May 7th in Toronto, more information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

Directed by Megan Wennberg (Drag Kids), the documentary Unsyncable follows a group of seniors, ranging from their sixties to their eighties, who have embraced competitive synchronized swimming, or “artistic swimming,” using the sport as a source of both community and exercise.

The subjects include Sue Nesbitt (68), a former champion from the 1970s who is now competing again as a senior; Ellen Scott (63) from Kitchener, Ontario who finds being in the water helps with her back problems, and is happy just to compete regardless of what medal she receives; and the openly gay Cris Meyer-Windes (68), a former speed swimmer who took up synchro after his partner died, and now has an LGBTQ+ team.

Then there’s Luther Gales (82), a former marine who is now the assistant coach of The Harlem Honeys and Bears, an all-Black synchro team battling stereotypes that African-Americans “don’t swim,” with teammates Monica Hale (68) and Joyce Clark (71). Wennberg’s film follows them as they prepare for 2022 US Masters Artistic Swimming Championships.

They all love to perform, with Sue’s team showing they still have it with their “down the drain” routine, a circular formation that requires them all to be locked foot-to-shoulder and perfectly in sync, and always brings the house down. Sue is also seen bedazzling their swimsuits with glitter and sparkles so they stand out for the judges. But Cris and his team always have the best music, and love dancing in the water.

While Unsyncable is a fairly simple sports documentary, and there are a few moments when we do wish for a bit more insight into the subjects, it’s still an enjoyable film that offers several rousing moments as the differents members come together to compete in the championships. At a breezy 75 minutes, it works as a feel-good documentary about not letting age slow you down.

Screenings: Wednesday, May 3rd, 8:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3; Friday, May 5th, 11:45 AM at Scotiabank Theatre 5. Tickets can be purchased here, and the film will also be streaming online across Canada from May 5th to 9th.

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