TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey announced today that the World Premiere of Netflix’s The Swimmers will be the Opening Night Gala Presentation for the 47th Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday, September 8, at Roy Thomson Hall.
“I was deeply moved by the story of these two sisters and wowed by the storytelling,” said Bailey. “The Swimmers was the very best kind of surprise when we saw it this summer — an exciting, epic journey and the arrival of an important filmmaker. I’m thrilled that audiences in Toronto will be the first to discover Sally El Hosaini’s remarkable film, and that this year on our Opening Night we can honour everyone who risks everything to reach a better, safer life.”
The Swimmers joins previously announced TIFF films including the world premieres of Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, Rian Johnson’s Knives Out sequel Glass Onion, the Billy Eichner gay rom-com Bros and Viola Davis as the leader of an African tribe of women warriors in The Woman King. The complete lineup will be announced next week.
Based on a true story, The Swimmers follows the journey of Sarah and Yusra Mardini from war-torn Syria to the 2016 Rio Olympics. In 2015, the two young sisters embarked on a harrowing journey as refugees as they fled their home country of Syria to seek asylum in Greece via boat. As they neared Lesbos, the engine on their boat died in choppy seas. Both Sarah and Yusra jumped into the ocean and swam the boat to shore, a swim that took almost three and a half hours, saving the lives of 18 Syrian refugees who were on the boat.
The film stars Manal Issa, Nathalie Issa, Ahmed Malek, Matthias Schweighöfer, Ali Suliman, Kinda Alloush, James Krishna Floyd, and Elmi Rashid Elmi. It is directed by Sally El Hosaini, with a screenplay written by El Hosaini and multi-award-winning screenwriter and playwright Jack Thorne, and produced by Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner alongside Ali Jaafar and Tim Cole with Stephen Daldry executive producing.
“I’m ecstatic. What an honour and privilege to open TIFF with the inspirational true-life story of the Mardini sisters,” said The Swimmers director El Hosaini. “A city as multicultural and diverse as Toronto is the perfect place to debut our film that elevates the visibility and voice of refugees, reminding us that the human capacity to survive is stronger than most of us know.”
The film will be released in select theaters and on Netflix later this year.
Photo: Laura Radford/Netflix