One of the films Netflix is pinning its awards hopes on this year, “Nyad,” is facing criticism amid continuing accusations about the swimmer Diana Nyad’s 2013 Cuba-to-Florida swim and questions about her character and credibility.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the biopic, the narrative feature debut of documentary filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and “Free Solo” Oscar winner Jimmy Chin that is debuting at Telluride this week, has generated vociferous complaints online from the world of marathon swimming and resurfaced questions over her most famous accomplishment, the 110-mile swim across the shark-infested Florida Straits.
With Annette Benning as Nyad and Jodie Foster as her close friend Bonnie Stoll, the film is considered one of Netflix’s biggest contenders for an Oscar.
But right from the beginning, the 110-mile swim, which Nyad completed in her fourth attempt, raised questions. The World Open Water Swimming Association., one of the sport’s two main global organizations, has a scathing piece on its website, “‘“Nyad’ on Netflix: The Swim, The Scandal, The Silence,” stating that she improvised rules for her swim, which lacks official ratification as a record.
The post slams her for not releasing observer logs and GPS data from the swim and claims that there is a “significant gap in the records, particularly during a period when Nyad’s condition shifted dramatically,” that “calls for further expert analysis.”
Part of what is at issue is Nyad’s self-aggrandizing personality.
“Diana is like a Trumpian figure in this space,” says Elaine K. Howley, a marathon swimmer and journalist told the Times. “Whether you like her or not, she sucks up all of the oxygen in the room with her boastfulness and exaggeration and narcissism. There are conflicted feelings because finally this really cool, really hard sport we love is getting the feature movie that it deserves — and there are a lot of us who feel, like, really? You’re going to make it about her?”
“Most people in the community are very supportive of other marathon swimmers. But they don’t take Nyad seriously,” one of her most ardent critics, former marathon swimmer, Daniel Slosberg, told the Times. “The main buzz in the community is that this is a travesty.”
“Nyad” is set for release on Oct. 20.
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