Dolphin Man

Lefteris Charitos, 79 min, Greece.

The Life and Legacy of Jacques Mayol

Discover the story and legacy of the greatest free-diver in recorded history, whose life became the inspiration for Luc Besson’s cult-movie “Le Grand Bleu”.

Dolphin Man draws us into the world of Jacques Mayol, capturing his compelling journey and immersing viewers into the sensory and transformative experience of free-diving. The film weaves together stunning contemporary underwater photography of the world’s leading free divers with intimate testimonies of Mayol’s closest friends and rare film archive from the 1950’s onwards, to discover how the "dolphin man" revolutionized free-diving and brought a new consciousness to our relationship to the sea and to inner-selves.

Director Statement: 

Dolphin Man is the story of a charismatic and complex man who divided his life between the land and water, raising awareness about our deep affinity with the sea. He took up free-diving at the age of 40 and lived the rest of his life chasing an elusive dream to reconnect with nature.

An athlete, philosopher and adventurer, Mayol traveled across the world, winning over acolytes through a vision of man’s closeness to the sea and to dolphins.

The film deals with essential issues of human existence. Death, the body’s limits, our return to nature, the traps of personal ambition and fame, the balance of body and soul through meditation: these are the dominant themes of Mayol’s life.

In parallel, I will explore Mayol’s darker side. At 74, he was found dead at his home on the Italian island of Elba. The film will explore the reasons for his suicide, but also the spiritual side of apnea and its connection with death.

Dolphin Man aims to engage the viewer through the senses and emotions. For Mayol, each dive was an attempt to align mind and body. We share this experience, plunging to great depths, where all is black, motionless, frightening and peaceful, and we return to the dazzling light of the surface. This sensory journey is achieved through contemporary underwater filming of the world’s best divers, while we discover what happens to the human body and mind at great depth.

The film will move on two different levels. One is Mayol’s life-story told in a non-linear, thematic way. The other is his legacy and influence today.

The film travels to the US, Japan, Italy, France, Greece and the Bahamas, places of extreme beauty which marked Mayol. The film also uses the unique texture of 16mm film, from Miami of the 50’s, to key events in Mayol’s life, shot by pioneering post-war cinematographers. Additional shooting is carried out in Eilat, Israel.

I will make an adventurous and contemplative film based on stunning location and underwater shooting, blending intimate testimonies of Mayol’s friends, fellow-athletes and family with unseen archival material that bring alive his life-story, while conveying the unique experience of breath-hold diving.

Lefteris Charitos. 

About director ​Lefteris Charitos:

Lefteris Charitos studied film at Royal College of Arts in London and has directed five fiction and non-fiction series for Greek television, including the highly acclaimed history doc series 1821 and the Zone Defence fiction series, co-directed with Philippos Tsitos. He ran the Let’s Cinema initiative of the Ministry of Culture and Education, introducing cinema to schools and is currently the coordinator of the Digital Film Making Diploma Course at the SAE School in Athens.

Dolphin Man is brought to Doc Lounge in collaboration with EDN initiative Moving Docs