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In Su Friedrich’s canonical autobiographical documentary, she returns to a childhood memory: her father has thrown her into the deep end of a pool to teach her to swim. Imbued with a disorienting combination of fear and admiration and a desperation for approval, their complex relationship unravels into 26 vignettes, revisiting her parents’ tumultuous separation, their traumas and her own sexual awakening. Incorporating home movies, archival material and contemporary footage to draw curious connections, Friedrich constructs poetic contradictions between the fragmented, remembered past and her adult development, exposing the shaky ground on which identity is constructed. Now inducted into the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry, Friedrich’s formally rigorous and emotionally charged masterpiece SINK OR SWIM (1990) is a landmark in personal documentary.

  • Year
  • Runtime
    48 minutes
  • Language
  • Country
  • Director
    Su Friedrich
  • Cast
    Jessica Lynn
  • Cinematographer
    Su Friedrich
  • Editor
    Su Friedrich