This soaring epic dramatizes the true story of two sisters who left their home in war-torn Syria for a new life in Europe — and the chance to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

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Gala Presentations

The Swimmers

Sally El Hosaini

An epic adventure drawn from the most pressing of global stories, The Swimmers tells the remarkable true tale of sisters Yusra and Sara Mardini, who fled their home in war-torn Damascus to seek a new life in Europe and earn the chance to compete in the Olympics. Directed by Sally El Hosaini (My Brother the Devil) and written by Jack Thorne (TIFF ’19’s The Aeronauts), this is a moving story of two young women refugees, and their inspiring reach for a better life.

Yusra and Sara have pursued rigorous swimming training with their father (Ali Suliman) since childhood. By 2015, with Syria’s devastating civil war escalating, their dreams of Olympic gold are quickly fading. They decide to risk the perilous journey to Europe. Accompanied by their cousin (Ahmed Malek), they escape first to Lebanon, then Turkey. Then, in a bravura sequence equal to any great action blockbuster, they board a small boat teeming with fellow refugees to cross a frequently lethal stretch of the Mediterranean sea. Their journey is far from over.

Nathalie Issa and Manal Issa, sisters in real life, deliver outstanding performances as Yusra and Sara, full of the passion and emotional intimacy that can come only from a lifetime lived together. As Yusra and Sara’s fortunes begin to look brighter in Europe, swim coach Sven Spannekrebs (Matthias Schweighöfer) offers the opportunity to fulfill their lifelong dream.

Propelled by gripping events and El Hosaini’s powerfully cinematic storytelling, The Swimmers is a testament to perseverance in the face of unspeakable adversity. But the heart of the film is the relationship between two sisters, fiercely holding onto life, and their love for each other.

Screenings

Thu Sep 08

VISA Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre

Premium
6:00pm
Thu Sep 08

Roy Thomson Hall

Premium
8:00pm
Fri Sep 09

TIFF Bell Lightbox 2

Press
9:00am
Fri Sep 09

TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Press
9:05am
Fri Sep 09

TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Regular
12:00pm
Sat Sep 17

VISA Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre

Regular
3:00pm