A film based on a Brightonian who was the first British woman to swim the English Channel had its first screening at a historic cinema in the city.

Vindication Swim tells the story of Mercedes Gleitze who swam the Channel from near Calais to St Margaret's Bay, near Dover, in 15 hours and 15 minutes on October 7, 1927.

It shows Mercedes’ struggle to overcome the English Channel’s cold temperatures, the oppressive society of 1920s England and her fight to retain her record and legacy after it is put under scrutiny.

A packed out crowd came to watch the exclusive screening at the Duke of York’s in Preston Road, Brighton, on Tuesday ahead of the film’s release next year.

The Argus: Vindication Swim is about the story of Mercedes Gleitze from BrightonVindication Swim is about the story of Mercedes Gleitze from Brighton (Image: Vindication Swim)

The film was directed by Brighton-born Elliott Hasler, 22, who described Mercedes’ life story as “incredible”.

Speaking after the screening, Elliott said: “It’s coming up to four years since we started working on this film. We had Covid and lots of filming out at sea so lots of different challenges to face.

“The story itself was so interesting, it was a real fallacy that she had to fight to prove her achievement and basically faded out of the public eye.

The Argus: Kirsten Callaghan, John Locke and Elliott Hasler, right, are interviewed after the screeningKirsten Callaghan, John Locke and Elliott Hasler, right, are interviewed after the screening (Image: Vindication Swim)

“It really grabbed me as this strong heroine from 100 years ago who deserved to be celebrated in a cinematic way. Her life story is incredible.”

Despite her remarkable achievement, Mercedes’ swim was put into jeopardy after a competitor called Edith Gade, played by Victoria Summer, faked completing the crossing less than a week later in just over 13 hours.

Suspicions quickly arose around the legitimacy of that claim with Edith confessing that it was a hoax.

With that, Mercedes’ attempt was also put under heavy scrutiny.

But defiant Mercedes said she would “do it again”.

The Argus: Kirsten Callaghan plays Mercedes Gleitze in the film Kirsten Callaghan plays Mercedes Gleitze in the film (Image: Vindication Swim)

Just two weeks after her successful crossing, Mercedes would take on the daunting challenge once more in what would be her ninth attempt overall.

Mercedes is played by Kirsten Callaghan, while her mentor Harold Best, who represents multiple people who helped Mercedes with her training, is played by John Locke.

The film features prominent locations in Sussex including Newhaven Harbour, the Seven Sisters cliffs, Eastbourne seafront, Worthing town hall and Cuckmere Haven.

Dozens of acting groups across the county appeared in the film.

Kirsten Callaghan even took part in swimming classes to prepare her for swimming in the ocean.

Elliott would also film while swimming in the sea.

The Argus: Elliott Hasler is directorElliott Hasler is director (Image: Vindication Swim)

He added: “Filming out at sea was never straightforward but it was really worthwhile. I think doing that was such a rewarding experience.

“Everything was real. What you saw on film was Kirsten Callaghan in the water. We wanted to pay homage to Mercedes’ endurance.”

Elliott also said he was drawn to the story upon finding out Mercedes was born in Brighton in 1900.

He said: “That was partly what drew me to the story, we share the same home town.

“That’s also what I love about being in this cinema, it’s been here for over 100 years. Mercedes may well of come here herself and watched a film here back in the 1920s.”

Vindication Swim is set to be released in 2023.