Egyptian-Welsh filmmaker Sally El Hosaini will be cutting the ribbon on the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) on September 8. Running consecutively for the ensuing 10 days, the director’s latest title, The Swimmers, will be kicking off the cinematic gathering as it has been chosen as the Opening Night Gala Presentation for the 47th edition of TIFF.
Co-produced by US streaming giant Netflix hand-in-hand with London-based agency Working Title Films, the feature, whose release got delayed owing to the ongoing pandemic, is finally getting the introduction, and attention, it rightfully deserves. Based on a true story, the plot centers around the story of two sisters, Yusra and Sarah Mardini, who fled their native war-torn Syria in 2015 only to find themselves at the 2016 Rio Olympics less than a year later.
In 2015, the sisters were on a boat from Turkey to Greece when the overcrowded vessel began sinking. The sisters had to keep swimming for three-hours to keep the boat moving and propel the passengers to safety. Through courage and infinite determination, Yusra, who literally swam to survive her risky journey towards asylum with her sister, went on to eventually compete under the Refugee Team’s banner in Brazil.
Inherently moving and intrinsically motivating, Mardini’s story made international headlines a couple of years ago, and is now about to be put at the center of the world’s cinematographic stage when it makes its world premiere at TIFF. Shot in three different countries, namely the United Kingdom, Turkey, and Belgium, The Swimmers called on Lebanese actresses Manal and Nathalie Issa, who also happen to be sisters in real life, to imitate the now-famed siblings on the big screen. Other members of the cast include Palestinian actor Ali Suliman, Cairo-born star Ahmed Malek, as well as Syrian actress Kinda Alloush.
“I was deeply moved by the story of these two sisters and wowed by the storytelling,” commented the Toronto International Film Festival’s CEO Cameron 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 honor everyone who risks everything to reach a better, safer life.” he continued.
This will be the second time that a Netflix production will serve as an opening act to a film festival this year. White Noise, a Noah Baumbach-directed drama from the US streaming service, was announced as the Venice Film Festival’s opening film earlier this week.