SWIMMERS IN THE DESERT
A film by Kurt Mayer
Myths from childhood, conveyed by a father’s stories, the anecdotes of a well known newsreel cameraman, and preserved in old cans containing a documentary shot on highly flammable nitrocellulose film: This provided filmmaker Kurt Mayer with inspiration and an outline for his search. The restored film, which premiered in Vienna in 1996 on the same day as “The English Patient”, is the sole document of the real Lászlo Almásy and his intrepid crossing of Sudan in 1929.
But László Almásy, the hero of Ondaatje’s bestselling novel and the protagonist of the Oscar-winning Hollywood film, is not only part of a family history. Almásy’s controversial personality, his adventures and discoveries provide a motivation to undertake a critical journey through “men’s domains” of the 20th century which includes stops in Cairo, Khartoum, London and Vienna.
Original footage shot in the year 1929, letters, diary entries and the filmmaker’s thoughts on his modern trek accompany this journey to a magical world where history was written.