The film tells the true story of swimming sisters Yusra and Sarah Mardini’s journey as refugees from war-torn Syria all the way to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
In 2015, after their house was destroyed in the Syrian Civil War, the Mardini sisters decided to flee the country. They made their way to Lebanon and then Turkey, where they arranged to be smuggled into Greece by dinghy. In the middle of the Aegean Sea, the motor of the dinghy, overcrowded with refugees, cut out, and the Mardini sisters and others who could swim, ensured the safety of the passengers.
Yusra Mardini competed in swimming events at the Rio Olympics as part of the Refugee Olympic Team.
The film — which was five days away from principal photography in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe — is based on a screenplay by El Hosaini and BAFTA winner Jack Thorne (“Enola Holmes”).
The roles of Yusra and Sarah Mardini will be played by Lebanese sisters Manal and Nathalie Issa (“My Favourite Fabric”). Manal Issa won best actress at the Les Arcs European Film Festival for “Parisienne” (2015).
Welsh-Egyptian writer and director El Hosaini’s feature debut “My Brother the Devil” (2013) premiered at Sundance, winning the world cinema cinematography dramatic prize and also securing El Hosaini the best British newcomer prize at the BFI London Film Festival and best European film at the Berlinale.
“The Swimmers” reunites El Hosaini with her “My Brother the Devil” lead James Krishna Floyd and the cast also includes Ahmed Malek (“About Her”), Matthias Schweighöfer (“The Break Up Man”), Ali Suliman (“200 Meters”), Kinda Alloush (“Except Me”) and Elmi Rashid Elmi (“Trying”).
The film is produced by Working Title’s Eric Fellner and Tim Bevan, former Variety contributor Ali Jaafar (“King of Thieves”) and Tim Cole (“Wild Bill”). It is executive produced by Stephen Daldry (“The Crown”).
“The Swimmers” will start shooting this week in the U.K., followed by Turkey and Belgium. It will release on Netflix globally in 2022.