Special Olympics Wisconsin is excited to share that we will be serving as a community partner for the critically-acclaimed film Swim Team during the 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival that will run September 28 to October 12.
The documentary, directed and produced by Lara Stolman, follows the creation of a Special Olympics New Jersey swim team comprised of athletes with autism and their inaugural season. According to the film’s website, “Swim Team chronicles the extraordinary rise of the Jersey Hammerheads, capturing a moving quest for inclusion, independence and a life that feels winning.”
Stolman, for one, hopes that Wisconsinites and the Special Olympics Wisconsin community will enjoy her film when it screens during the festival and that it moves them just as it has been moving audiences since it started screening on the festival circuit last fall.
“It’s so fitting that Special Olympics Wisconsin is involved with our film for the Milwaukee Film Festival,” Stolman said. “Nothing makes me happier than the wonderful feedback we’ve received from Special Olympics participants already. Special Olympics coaches and athletes love the film and I hope the folks in Milwaukee and Wisconsin do too.”
The film follows three Special Olympics New Jersey swimmers from the town of Perth Amboy who join a swim team formed by the parents of a boy with autism who saw few opportunities for their son. According to a review in the Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey has the highest rate of autism in the country, and “three of them are the engaging central characters in Swim Team, an eye-opening look at one couple’s response to the dearth of public services, therapies and programs for their son.” The athletes who star in Swim Team are Mikey McQuay, Robert Justino and Kelvin Truong. Mikey’s father, Mike McQuay, is the coach of the team and helped to get the new team off the ground.
Mike Sr. was also the inspiration for the film, as Stolman met him while searching for swimming opportunities for her son who has autism. She was immediately impressed and inspired by Coach Mike’s positivity and the way he interacted with the athletes.
As a filmmaker who had spent her whole career working with the likes of NBC, HBO and TLC, Stolman knew she had to capture what she imagined would be an incredible story of the Hammerheads as they competed through their first season.
Little did she know how powerful the story would end up being or how much it would impact lives both in and outside of Special Olympics.
“This film also introduces Special Olympics to people who don’t know a lot about the movement. As a parent of a child with autism, I didn’t know Special Olympics was available to us until we met Coach Mike (McQuay),” Stolman said. “It can be a wonderful thing in our kids’ lives and more people should know it’s available to them.”
Due to the success of Swim Team, it has been picked up by PBS for their POV series, which airs critically-acclaimed documentaries. A shortened version of the film will air on POV on October 2.
But before Swim Team airs on PBS’ POV series or screens at the Milwaukee Film Festival, check out our Q&A with Lara Stolman in two weeks as she truly takes us behind the scenes of this film that RogerEbert.com calls, “both eye-opening and heart-opening.”