Laura McGann lives by the sea in County Wicklow, Ireland, with her wife and their daughter. She enjoys swimming in the Cove in Greystones and admits herself that it clears her head when she teeters on the edge of a bad mood. Perhaps it’s coincidence or perhaps it’s irony that her documentary ‘The Deepest Breath’, written and directed by McGann herself, centres on the tragedy of drowning in your own passion.
Champion freediver Alessia Zecchini fell in love with the sport as a child growing up in Italy, astounding coaches with her raw talent and determination in pool swims and open water contests before she was even old enough to legally compete. Irish adventurer turned expert safety diver Stephen Keenan, meanwhile, was raised near the sea, but as a young man he set out on a quest to find himself, travelling across Africa before landing in Dahab, Egypt and establishing a dive school. Despite their very different paths, the two would meet at the pinnacle of the competitive freediving world, discovering a shared passion for pushing their limits and forming a powerful relationship that felt like fate.
From director Laura McGann, this thrilling documentary takes a look inside one of the most dangerous sports in the world, using everything from raw underwater dive footage to childhood home movies to chronicle Zecchini and Keenan’s lives and careers. The bond between them propels the film’s emotional journey into the stunning, silent depths of the ocean, a breathtaking place unseen by all but the fortunate few – where exhilarating accomplishments and unavoidable risks await.
McGann’s interest in film was piqued at a young age by both her grandfather who was an avid filmmaker and her grand-uncle who ran cinemas. She started making films and producing theatre when she was just 15 years old and went on to study film in Ballyfermot, Dublin before pursuing a masters in documentary filmmaking at Hope University, Liverpool.
Her first festival short The End of the Counter was made with the support of the Irish Film Board, the subsequently won several awards including best short documentary at the Galway Film Fleadh. The short was screned at international festivals including Boston Independent Film Festival, Dublin International Film Festival and Belfast Film Festival. Laura has worked in Ireland and abroad shooting and directing over 20 documentary series for RTE, SKY, PBS, BBC, Lonely Planet and UTV.