Aurora Films backs Eric the Eel story for the big screen

The tale of Eric “the Eel” Moussambani Malonga, the swimmer from Equatorial Guinea who became the underdog hero of the Sydney 2000 Olympics, is set to be immortalised on the big screen.

Aurora Films has secured the life rights to the athlete’s story, which will form the basis for a scripted feature film to be shot primarily in Australia, including at Sydney’s Olympic Park.

Development is slated to start in late 2023, with shooting anticipated to take place in 2025-26.

Writer/producer and Aurora Films managing director Ákos Armont said he had spent years thinking about Moussambani’s “awe-inspiring story of courage, determination and dignity under immense public pressure”.

“To my mind, Eric, and the athletes and trainers who assisted him at the Games, embody the very finest qualities of sportsmanship and the Olympic spirit,” he said.

“I hope Eric’s journey to the 2000 Olympic Games and his subsequent appointment as Equatorial Guinea’s national swimming coach will inspire generations of young viewers to seek out new ways of representing their own communities and positively impacting the world around them.”

After being selected to represent his country as part of the International Olympic Committee’s wildcard program, Moussambani took up competitive swimming only eight months prior to the games. His journey caught the attention of others in the village, with the South African team swim coach taking him under his wing days before the qualifying heats.

Despite training in a 12-metre hotel pool, he stepped up to the blocks in the 100m freestyle first-round heat and managed to keep his composure while his two fellow competitors false started, leading him to swim the race alone and record a time of 1:52.72 – the slowest in Olympics history.

His determination and courage made him a cult figure among commentators and viewers while inspiring athletes in his home country, where he is now the national swim team coach.

Speaking about his games experience, Moussambani said it was something that he “had to do”.

“Something in me was saying, if I am the first person to swim in an Olympics game [for] my country, I’m going to do it,” he said.

“Because if you want to do something and you are giving your effort and you are trying your best, you can do it.”