Azza Cohen's FLOAT! is a short documentary that takes a dip into her Bubbe Judy Miller's journey through her bucket list, wading through society’s assumptions about octogenarian women, their attitudes, and their bodies as we watch Bubbe learn to swim at 82 years young. Cinematic portrayals of aging too often lament the process, focusing on our immutable pasts and writing off the possibilities ahead. But what if we considered getting older through a lens of agency, exploration, satisfaction, and even exhilaration? What if 82 was just right for Bubbe to strip off her clothes and inhibitions — and our expectations — and dive headfirst into something new? FLOAT! encourages audiences to adjust our goggles and reframe our nostalgia for youth, our notions of beauty, and our fear of aging. Join the charming and wise Bubbe as she boldly looks forward and inspires viewers to jump in with her; the water’s warm.

  • Azza Cohen
  • Soo-jeong Kang
    Executive Producer
  • Paul Moakley
    Executive Producer
  • Melissa Fajardo
  • Devon Blackwell
    Associate Producer
  • Judy Miller
    Key Cast
  • Drew de Pinto
    Additional Cinematography
  • Alexandra Stergiou
    Sound Recording
  • Drew De Pinto
    Sound Recording
  • Isabella Andaya
    Assistant Editor
  • Lloyd May
    Original Music
  • Dan Olmsted
    Sound Design and Mix
  • Robert Arnold
  • Mark Urbanek
    Technical Support
  • Paul Meyers
    Technical Support
  • Chris Nguyen
    Technical Support
  • Joel Rakowski
    Technical Support
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short, Student
  • Genres:
    Documentary, Comedy, Sports, Jewish
  • Runtime:
    16 minutes 46 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    January 11, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    6,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English, Hebrew, Yiddish
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
    Yes - Stanford
Distribution Information
  • The New Yorker Documentary
    Country: United States
    Rights: All Rights, Internet
Director Biography - Azza Cohen

Azza Cohen (she/her) is a documentary filmmaker, historian, and storyteller currently serving as the videographer and video producer for Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris. A self-described “method director,” Azza immerses herself in every aspect of filmmaking behind and in front of the camera, from large- and small-scale documentary to political media — always through a lens of activism.

Azza joined the Biden-Harris Administration in July 2022 following her graduation from Stanford University's MFA Program in Documentary Film and Video, where she was fully funded by the Knight-Hennessy Scholars Program. Her thesis film "FLOAT!" — a short documentary that captures Azza’s octogenarian Bubbe’s journey learning how to swim — was acquired by The New Yorker in 2023 and is now streaming.

At Stanford, Azza also directed "Dear Hormazd," a 16mm profile of a Zoroastrian couple urging their son to keep the faith; directed "Nothing left to do but marvel," an experimental short inspired by her own chronic migraines and filmed entirely in soft focus; and co-directed "Bruce’s Dream," an immersive short about a retired racehorse learning to ride again as a therapy horse for nonverbal teenagers on the autism spectrum. Azza also produced classmate Drew de Pinto’s thesis film "Compton’s ‘22," which was nominated for the 38th Annual IDA Documentary Awards for best student documentary film.

Azza earned her first Master’s Degree from the University of Galway through a Mitchell Scholarship. For her dissertation in the Culture and Colonialism program, Azza documented the socioeconomic effects of the ‘Brexit’ vote on communities along the border dividing Ireland and Northern Ireland.

As an undergraduate at Princeton, Azza made "Refugee, Refugee," a micro documentary that profiles a Rwandan refugee adjusting to life in Trenton, New Jersey. And she directed and produced "Specks of Dust," an award-winning short documentary that follows a group of activists fighting human trafficking in India and which has been taught as part of human rights and gender studies curricula around the world.

Azza has also collaborated on numerous social justice projects with colleagues across the industry. She worked with director and executive producer Vanessa Roth on National Geographic’s IMPACT with Gal Gadot, a docu-series uplifting six remarkable women’s contributions to their communities. At documentary firm CreativeChaos vmg, Azza worked on "The Great Divide," a forthcoming documentary on the debate over U.S. gun laws; "Bleed Out," a 2018 HBO documentary investigation into medical error; and "This Changes Everything," a 2019 Netflix documentary exploring gender discrimination in Hollywood.

Outside of filmmaking, Azza is a Fellow of the Salzburg Global Seminar, a network of inclusive, interdisciplinary, international and intergenerational changemakers; is a member of the Jewish Pride Fund, which provides grants to organizations supporting LGBTQ+ Jews; and served a four-year term on the Princeton University Board of Trustees.

Azza is eternally grateful to Andrew Jarecki, her documentary hero, who gave her a chance — and her very first film credit — as an intern on The Jinx.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

"FLOAT!" begins as a traditional documentary portrait. It follows a white-haired Jewish woman with oversized leopard-print glasses as she goes about her day: FaceTiming her childhood best friend from the toilet, letting her rescue dog Tink drink coffee from her mug, loving her adoring husband David, my Poppy, nose hairs and all, and of course, learning to swim.

My film also feels like a family home movie, as it was impossible for me to be entirely “observational” with my grandmother. Through formal interviews and informal conversations with me from behind the lens, Bubbe shares nuggets of sincerity and wisdom. She also interrupted filming many times: to tell me I wasn’t wearing enough makeup, to ask for help using a pair of scissors, to ask if I was cold while holding the camera in the pool, to share her ideas for a scene. I felt such joy being a director and being her granddaughter; it was intimate, fun, and authentic in ways only a relationship like ours can be.

And it brought us closer in ways we will always cherish. The summer before I made "FLOAT!," I finally came out — to myself and others — as gay. It was confusing, scary, heartbreaking, painful, exhilarating, liberating, and true. I grappled with whether I should come out to Bubbe while making this film, and a dear mentor encouraged me to be as vulnerable and real with Bubbe as she was being with me. Bubbe and Poppy embraced me and my queerness fiercely and unequivocally.

Most films about the elderly focus on the past: reminiscing about what once was and lamenting that it is gone. But what if a film considered an older person through a new lens? What if an octogenarian woman’s best days are not behind her, but ahead? What if 82 is the perfect age to appreciate the blessings of your life, family, friends, and body, and to learn something new? Through the charm, warmth, and wisdom of my grandmother, my Bubbe, my film "FLOAT!" asks audiences of all ages to reconsider their preconceived notions about age, beauty, love, and what matters most in life.

By centering my grandmother on screen — with her wrinkles, her laugh lines, her Jewish arms, her hangy buzzies, her varicose veins, her neck brace, her aches and pains, her candor — my film considers the older folks in our lives, inside and out, with curiosity and admiration. Before she was my Bubbe, she was Judy Miller, a charismatic, beautiful leg model who never left the house without “putting her face on.” From Bubbe, my mom and then I, too, learned how to conform to society’s expectations of how women should look. Indeed, I had always struggled with these traditional notions of femininity; they never quite fit, and it was not until much later that I understood, or accepted, why. Bubbe and I engaged, collaboratively, with the tensions between our and society’s demands of our bodies and the vulnerability of exposing our "imperfect" bodies — and our insecurities about them — on screen. Putting Bubbe in a bathing suit and showing her unedited octogenarian body provoked reflection and conversations on interiority, propriety, femininity, beauty, aging, and more.

As Bubbe wrestled with her wetsuit, fear of the water, diminished strength, and physical and emotional nakedness, she wrestled too with the most eternal, most universal question: what is a life well lived and how do we grapple with our mortality? Bubbe inspires all who watch her onscreen: to reframe their internal narrative about their bodies and beauty, to embrace all of life’s blessed phases, to call their grandparents, and maybe even to learn to swim. It is my sincere hope that we can bring this film to audiences of all kinds, all across the world. I may be biased, but I think that spending fifteen minutes with my delightful, hilarious, wise, beloved Bubbe could make your day and even change your life. At the very least, she will charm your pants off.

Thanks for considering — and enjoy!