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The Swedish Torpedo

Frida Kempff

Sweden, Denmark


World War II is around the corner, but the only thing Sally Bauer can think of is the ocean. Her dream is to swim across the English Channel. Her father has tried to exorcise her obsession with swimming since she was a toddler, without success.

An unwanted pregnancy forces her to abandon her dream – and herself. The child’s father does not want to be involved, so as a woman in the ‘30s in Sweden, Sally has no choice but to do what is expected of her: to be a mother. There is no place left for her dreams and Sally is pulled into bottomless darkness, until her sister Carla saves her. With renewed purpose, together the sisters begin to dismantle the conventions they are constantly facing.

In late August 1939, Sally stands on the shore at Dover and takes her first step into the English Channel. She swims across the open and icy sea for 15 hours, waving to the Navy who are readying for war. A couple of days after Sally swims ashore at Calais, Poland is invaded.


In 2010 I directed the short documentary Bathing Micky, about a strong and inspiring 100-year-old woman, Micky, who swims every day – no matter the season – to soothe her memories from World War II. Micky told me about Sally Bauer and since then, I have nurtured a dream to make a film about this inspiring person who swam over the English Channel as the first European woman.

The story about Sally takes place 80 years ago, but for me this is a contemporary story about breaking norms and walking your own way despite how society will judge you.

Water has played a central role in several of my previous films, and obviously it will in this film as well. The waters that my films explore are connected to my own feelings of eternity and the uncharted; the source of all life.

As a mother and a director, I feel affinity with both the female main characters. The world is still shaped by our expectations of being the Good Mother, where our own dreams should be secondary.


Sweden, 1939. Sally has to defy her family and social norms to swim the English Channel.
Frida Kempff

Scriptwriter, Film Director

production notes

original title
Den svenska torpeden

directed by
Frida Kempff

produced byMomento Film
Södermannagatan 39
11640, Stockholm

in co-production with
Toolbox Film – Denmark

current financial need
€ € 3.000.000