Blacks Can’t Swim
When producer Ed Accura overcame his fear of swimming, he began to wonder why there is a stigma attached to swimming in many black communities. Inspired by his own journey of learning this lifesaving skill, he put together a documentary to get to the bottom of the insecurities, taboos and limitations that push many young black people to stay away from any body of water.
Blacks Can’t Swim combines acted scenes with real life interviews with a number of 14-25 year olds sharing their own experiences and personal views on the matter. They list the various obstacles to swimming they encountered, which range from having aquaphobic parents – and thus being kept away from an activity that seemed dangerous – or simply believing the myth that they were not suited for it. Many cited getting their hair wet as another hindrance, since water ruins styled hair that takes considerable time and effort to get done. Others mentioned the absence of role models, which seems to reinforce their belief that swimming isn’t something they can master and excel at.
The documentary tackles an important question and its desire to dispel the fears and remove young black people’s reluctance to acquire such an important skill is admirable. However, the feature itself lacks verve. It states its mission and its central issue and then just keeps reiterating the same points. The acted parts feel very inauthentic and it would have perhaps been better to simply let young people express themselves in the interviews, which are more genuine and more revealing.
The film’s website mentions a statistic released by Sport England that found that 95% of black adults in England do not swim. The documentary does not go into how that figure compares to the number of people from other backgrounds, such as those of Asian descent, who are reluctant to swim. It would perhaps reveal that the problem is more universal and affects descendants of many parts of the world where access to water is limited and swimming is seldom taken up as a leisure activity or sport.
The project’s purpose is a worthy one and it will hopefully open the door to programmes, resources and incentives to encourage people of disadvantaged backgrounds to swim and to do so confidently. However, the film itself simply skims the surface of the issue and serves mainly as a vehicle to get the conversation started.
Blacks Can’t Swim is released digitally on demand on 10th May 2021.
Watch the trailer for Blacks Can’t Swim here: