“For Sama” director Waad Al-Kateab is in Tokyo filming a documentary about the IOC Refugee Olympic Team for XTR.
Al-Kateab, a Syrian filmmaker who received an Oscar nomination for “For Sama,” is working with Oscar-winning producer Joanna Natasegara on the project. They have had access to the IOC Refugee Olympic Team before and during the 2021 Games. The team consists of 29 athletes competing in Tokyo, originating from 11 countries, and residing in 13 host nations.
“I am so honored to have the opportunity to capture the stories of these inspirational athletes on their way to competing at the biggest sports event in the world,” said Al-Kateab. “So much of their experience I recognize in my own journey as a refugee and I feel very committed to representing their heart, determination and resilience in a way that they deserve. Despite the hardship for anyone leaving their homeland behind, the Refugee Olympic Team stories are a moving contribution of ambition, joy and challenges.”
IOC President Thomas Bach created the refugee team in 2015, and it first competed in 2016 at the Rio Olympic Games.
Natasegara, who won her Oscar for her doc short “The White Helmet,” lauded the current refugee Olympic team as “a rich and diverse group showing off the best of humanity’s traits.” She added: “Their journeys to date have been challenging both in life as well as on the road to Tokyo and we feel privileged to have had the opportunity to live through this period with them.”
Joe Gebbia, an advocate for refugees and co-founder of Airbnb, is serving as an executive producer of the documentary. “Being able to tell this revolutionary story to show the struggles of these triumphant and incredible athletes conquering one of the greatest human feats, is an honor,” he said. “Their experiences deserve to be shared with the world at large.”
Jason Ropell and Nevine Mabro are also executive producing, along with XTR’s Justin Lacob and Kathryn Everett.