The Deepest Breath Explores the Deep Sea
Alessia Zecchini floats beneath the surface of the water in a full body wet suit.

THE DEEPEST BREATH EXPLORES THE DEEP SEA

Laura McGann celebrates the bond between safety expert Stephen Keenan and free diver Alessia Zecchini in her breathtaking documentary.

5 July 20233 min read

One of the most talked-about documentaries to debut at 2023’s Sundance Film Festival, The Deepest Breath follows two stories — that of champion Italian free diver Alessia Zecchini and of Irish expert safety diver Stephen Keenan, whose shared passion for both the sea and the sport ultimately bonds them together as partners in diving. 

Director Laura McGann (Revolutions) stitches together archival videos from the childhoods and careers of Zecchini and Keenan with new interviews from people close to them and arresting underwater footage that captures a glimpse of what free divers experience, showcasing both the great beauty and the terrible risk found in the depths of the ocean. The extreme sport takes diving to a new level, where no breathing apparatus is used and divers must only rely on the oxygen they hold in their lungs as they venture down, sometimes deeper than 100 meters, or 328 feet.

McGann first read about free diving in an Irish Times article. “I remember my wife was out, and when she came back that evening, I was still sitting there, just digging into these incredible videos,” she recalls. “I said to her, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this before.’ That was really how I felt, looking at these people behaving more like dolphins and seals than human beings, with nothing attached to them, just their wetsuits or bikinis and the light. It was incredible.” 

Along with cinematographer Tim Cragg and the documentary’s crew, McGann has created a visually mesmerizing film, one with a story that will leave a lasting impression on viewers. “I hope people see the beauty and wonder of two people striving for their dreams in a truly incredible sport,” says McGann. “Life is full of light and shade. This is a story about following your dreams, and ultimately, you just never know who you will meet or what will happen when you do.”