Cold Refuge Poster Web

Synopsis

Cold Refuge is about the physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects of full immersion in the natural world: how, though it may seem counter-intuitive, swimming in cold water helps mitigate some of life’s most serious challenges. Most people think it’s completely nuts to jump into cold water with sharks and sea lions who could kill you. But these adverse conditions in San Francisco Bay are nothing compared to the adversities some of the swimmers in Cold Refuge face in their own lives. The film’s diverse film subjects include a wheelchair-using, paralyzed swimmer who faces fear by diving off a high pier, a Black man who was told by whites when he was 13 that “Black people don’t swim” (it took him 30 years to try), a blind man who tethers himself to a sighted swimmer, a woman with aggressive breast cancer who “swims to chemo”, a lawyer who reduces courtroom stress in the open water and a young woman who communes with her late mother in San Francisco Bay, where they both swam together. Along with swimmers’ stories of adversity and resilience, the film’s marine mammals, birds, artwork, and a variety of open-water locations create a visual meditation on what it means to escape our abstract digital world in favor of what’s real. Cold Refuge is directed and produced by Sundance-and-Emmy-Award-winning filmmaker Judy Irving who has been a year-round San Francisco Bay swimmer since 1984. Official Selection 2024: Thunder Bay International Film Festival. Official Selections 2023: International Ocean Film Festival, Maine International Film Festival.