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Awe-inspiring exploits of Arctic free diver to be shown at Swim Serpentine

A film that celebrates the extraordinary talent of a world-leading free diver will be part of a collection of screenings at Swim Serpentine’s new festival area in Hyde Park on Saturday 22 September.

‘Johanna’ is a tribute to the wondrous skills of Johanna Nordblad, the world champion at free diving under ice, made by London film-maker Ian Derry.

The short film follows Johanna as she dives under the arctic ice in her homeland of Finland, following her in the dark, claustrophobic depths of the freezing waters, before she emerges once again.

Johanna discovered her passion for swimming and diving in open water through cold-water treatment following an accident while downhill biking.

She has since gone on to hold the world record for a 50m dive under ice and has won admirers across the world - as has the film that bears her name.

The making of Johanna, under the ice. from Ian Derry on Vimeo.

Director Ian Derry said: “Johanna is an incredible woman as you will see in the film. She goes through a short breathing programme and then she just disappears (under the water).

“You are stood at the surface waiting, waiting for her to resurface. You start thinking, ‘that’s enough’ and start worrying something has happened and then up she pops.

“When people watch the film I would like them to think anything is possible. She has gone from adversity to absolute strength and now people respect her saying ‘this is Johanna, she is the Ice Queen’.”

Drone footage shows the beautiful arctic geography above ground before cameras follow Johanna as she dives under the ice. And though the shots are absolutely stunning, they certainly were not easy to capture.

“The drone shots are the most beautiful,” said Ian. “The shots when Johanna is in the environment were shot on one sweeping camera. 

“But to get the underwater shots was a massive challenge. The cameraman was in a drysuit and then inside that an electric suit which kept him warm. He could be under the water for 45 minutes at one time and although he wasn’t cold, it’s just so challenging to be in the right place at the right time because she is just holding her breath.”

The film was such a challenge that Ian was unsure on the final day of the shoot whether he had the material he needed to make the film.

“We arrived on the last day not having a film,” he said. “We had some underwater footage but not the underwater footage we knew we could get. But then it started to work. The light was right, the conditions were right, the camera was working, Johanna was relaxed and I knew we were getting it.”

 ‘Johanna’ will be shown as part of a series of films during screenings inside the festival marquee at Swim Serpentine in London’s Hyde Park featuring swimmers from all walks of life. The screenings will be at 12:00 and 15:00.

The Swim Serpentine festival, hosted by Jonathan Cowie, Editor of Outdoor Swimmer magazine, and Contributing Editor Alice Gartland, will also feature talks from inspiring open-water swimmers and an art exhibition.

In the Serpentine, participants will take on half-mile, one-mile and two-mile swims throughout the day.