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'There Is No Place For Fear, Panic, or Mistakes'

Feb 28, 2018 | 831 videos
Video by Ian Derry

“At first, I did not like it,” says Johanna Nordblad, who holds the Guinness World Record for 50-meter free-diving, in a new short film from Ian Derry. “The cold was agony. But slowly, I got used to the feeling.” As Nordblad descends into the unforgiving subterranean world of the Arctic Ocean, she reveals the wherewithal necessary for free-diving under the ice. “There is no place for fear,” she says. “No place for panic. No place for mistakes. Under the ice, you need total control.”

Johanna was born of accidents. Nordblad began free-diving after suffering an injury; she was required to submerge in freezing water for treatment. Derry, too, suffered an accident and received a settlement, which he used to fund the film, his first directorial effort. “I wanted to do something positive from the negative,” the filmmaker told The Atlantic. “When I think back, it was quite fortuitous that accident happened.”

But the process of making the film was characterized by strict intentionality. “This is not something you can do without a proper approach,” Derry said. “Safety was paramount. We needed a safety team in and out of the water, so we had to be very precise.” The main enemy was the cold, which drained the camera’s batteries during the first two minutes of filming. Later, in the -16 ºC air temperature, the camera froze. Water leaked into the monitor. Despite the various setbacks, Derry and his team managed to capture the serene beauty of Nordblad’s sport.

“She is not just a woman who can free-dive in freezing water,” Derry said. “She genuinely is a creature with aquatic DNA.”

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Author: Emily Buder

About This Series

A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.