TW: This article discusses sexual abuse
Diving is the sport that has given Mexico most of its Olympic medals. In the last 15 years, it has become an attractive sport to the girls in the country since the rise of prominent female divers such as Paola Espinosa, Tatiana Ortiz, and Alejandra Orozco, who have impressed both Mexico and the world with their achievements in the last few Olympic Games. This kind of representation has made it a common dream to be on a podium for those who grew up in Mexico in the early 2010s. However, in her latest film, , Argentinian filmmaker Lucía Puenzo exposes what has happened to numerous female Mexican divers, reminding us of the uncomfortable truth that sexual harassment has polluted the sports scene in Mexico.
In a press conference
with Azul Almazán, one of the athletes who inspired the film, Almazán thanked the journalist Beatriz Pereyra for being the only person who dared to speak up for her back in 2001. Almazán, who represented Mexico in Sydney 2000, reported her coach, Raúl Rueda, in a seven page letter entitled “I accuse”. In this letter she explained how Rueda would watch pornographic content while she was sitting next to him, and that he would give her massages — even though they should have been done by a physiotherapist — under the excuse that it was to relieve her pain from the training sessions, which made her deeply uncomfortable. Yet, instead of receiving support, Almazán only received backlash from other parents and the respective authorities, and her complaint was archived until 2018.
Beatriz Pereyra replied to Almazán by saying that sports are highly romanticized around the world, and added that sports news presenters commence every program with the phrase “now, in nicer news.” But sports should stop being seen as a peaceful arena where the ills of the world disappear. Portraying sports in this way is giving the back to multiple stories of abuse that have taken place in this environment. If the cycle continues, more recent victims won’t feel safe enough to express what they are going through and they would fear the repercussions.
Dive stars and is produced by Karla Souza, a Mexican actress known for starring in the award-winning show How To Get Away With Murder. Souza plays the role of Mariel, an Olympic medalist diver struggling between the loyalty she and her family have to her lifelong coach, and the sexual abuse allegations that are incriminating him. Deja Ebergenyi interprets Nadia, a promising 14-year-old diver that is selected to become Mariel’s new training partner.
Nadia’s mother accuses Braulio, the coach in question, of sexually abusing Nadia after she starts noticing worrying behaviors in her daughter. Mariel’s first reaction is to try to convince Nadia’s mother to drop the charges after her parents push Mariel to protect Braulio since he is basically “family” to them. As the film goes on and we observe Mariel’s attitude, we see an experienced diver that is struggling to cope because of her past. The frustration of watching Mariel’s mother shutting a door in her daughter’s face can be suffocating for the viewer, especially when Mariel shows her mother evidence of everything that happened right under her nose when Mariel was younger.
With long shots of a lonely diver in the depths of Mexico City’s Olympic diving pool accompanied by the hollow echoes one can hear underwater, the film tries to capture the isolation and pressure that weighs on athletes who have been victims of sexual abuse. Puenzo captures the internal debate that haunts these athletes: whether to put their future and their job at stake, or to finally speak up about something that is consuming them. Dive tackles topics such as trauma, grooming, dynamics of power, the importance of sorority, and the tragic but paramount importance of making sure that young girls are in safe spaces.
Through her socials, Souza shared a montage of the three-year-long training process behind her outstanding preparation to play the role of an Olympic diver, but this was not the biggest effort that the actress had to put into the project. For 10 years, Souza worked to make Dive
become a reality. She never gave up on the project because she felt she was in debt to the victims who shared their testimonies with her, and she also had a personal stake in this film as part of her healing process. In an interview for CNN in 2018
, she revealed also being a survivor of sexual abuse and denounced the director of a film she was part of for sexually abusing her.
Violence against women is everpresent in Mexico, and it is heartbreaking to think that even such a freeing sport like diving, which literally consists in flying through the air from a tall platform into a deep pool, is also not a safe space for all to participate in freely. Women with enormous potential and dreams have abandoned promising careers just because no one could give them the safe space they deserved. If you get the chance to support this film, available on Amazon Prime Video, you would not only be supporting Latin American cinema but also giving room to voices that have been silenced for years.
Miriam Delgado is a Columnist and Staff Writer. Email them at email@example.com