Lebanese sisters Manal and Nathalie Issa will star as Syrian refugees and competitive swimmers Yusra and Sara Mardini, who escaped the country, helping haul a dinghy of refugees to safety across the Aegean Sea. Yusra went on to make it to the 2016 Rio Olympics. The film, co-scripted by El Hosaini and Jack Thorne, is set for transmission in 2022.
The Mardini sisters were among a group of 20 Syrians making the sea crossing in a small dinghy from Turkey to Greece in August 2015 when their boat started taking in water. The sisters jumped overboard to haul and push the boat, reaching Lesbos more than three hours later.
Both went on to settle in Germany, with Yusra taking up her training again with her coach Sven Spannenkrebs and going on to swim at the Olympics in two events, competing as a refugee athlete. Sara returned to Lesbos to work as a search and rescue volunteer with the Emergency Response Centre International, a Greek NGO.
El Hosaini’s previous film My Brother The Devil (2012) won the World Cinema prize at the Sundance Film Festival that year and also screened to great acclaim at the Dubai International Film Festival that year. Most recently she directed three episodes of UK TV cop series Babylon. The Swimmers will also star Matthias Schweighöfer as the swimming coach, along with Ahmed Malek, Ali Suliman, Kinda Alloush, James Krishna Floyd and Elmi Rashid Elmi.