Three questions to… Tanya Doyle, director of Waterlilies


In their sixties seven women have decided to take themselves out of their comfort zone and learn to swim: the documentary Waterlilies by Tanya Doyle is one of the short films in competition at Irish Film Festa 2016.

Dublin born Tanya Doyle was awarded the Duke of Edinburgh Medal of Excellence for her first film Moore Street (2004), a documentary short exploring how a living monument to traditional Dublin facilitated the amalgamation of cultures in the “new Ireland”.

Here’s our interview with Tanya.


How did you meet the women of Waterlilies?

I decided to learn to swim myself a couple of years ago and I arranged lessons at a local swimming pool. When I was leaving the pool one afternoon I noticed a group of older women coming into the water together. They were laughing and joking and full of banter, a total contrast to my group, who were all either self-conscious or terrified of the water altogether.

After my lesson the following week I approached the instructor and asked if she could put me in touch with the women. I met the women after their class that week and they were all very open and willing to talk. After that I contacted other swimming pools in the area to find similar classes and like minded women. It was amazing when we came in to film with the women they were so self assured and full of wise words. Some of the women also made a lot of effort with their appearances wearing full make-up and new swimming suits.


Through the use of music and the beautiful shots, the swimming pool seems like a world apart: how did you work on the visual aspect of the film?

The music was created in collaboration with a wonderful composer named Sam Joseph Delves. I showed Sam visual samples of what we shot then we listened to instrumental tones I liked. Finally we talked about what was happening in the film at any given moment and what we needed to communicate. I came up with key words describing pivot points in our structure and then Sam came back with the music.

The idea for the visuals style came from my own experience of learning how to swim. I found it really difficult to focus when I was alone in the water. I became very aware of my physical self and I thought it was important to reflect this. The opening sequence is intended to make an impact on the audience while also visually representing the drive these women have. The woman in red is an aspirational figure representing what all of the women are striving for and, as the narrative progresses, what they have already achieved by challenging themselves.


Waterlilies is also a reflection on third age from a female point of view. What interested you the most about the women’s tale?

My mother died 15 years ago, had she lived she would be in her mid 60’s now, coming to a point in her life where her time was her own and I wondered what she would be like. I think that’s really what attracted me to these women. I’m intrigued by how they haven’t stopped fighting. Through their life experience they seem to realise that you have to keep moving and that if you stop moving you’ll sink. They seem to me to be the physical manifestation of this belief because every day they push themselves outside of their comfort zone. I find it really interesting to hear women at a later stage of life talking. It’s easy to forget that these women were once young and that they have lived and that they have plenty to say for themselves. What interests me most about these women is the daily challenges they face and their triumph in the ordinary.