Zurich Film Fest secures European premiere of 'The Swimmers' as opening film

Sally El Hosaini's drama, based on the inspirational true-life story of Syrian sisters, will open the 18th Zurich Film Festival.
Zurich Film Fest secures European premiere of 'The Swimmers' as opening film

Two young sisters embark on a harrowing journey as refugees, putting both their hearts and champion swimming skills to heroic use. That is the basic premise of Netflix title The Swimmers, directed and written by Sally El Hosaini and co-written by multi-award-winner Jack Thorne. Among Thorne's previous work, are the TV movie Help, along with his screenplay for Enola Holmes and Wonder, which starred Julia Roberts. Welsh-Egyptian film director and screenwriter El Hosaini is known for her 2013 debut feature My Brother the Devil which won several international awards.

The Swimmers is also slated to open this year's Toronto International Film Festival earlier in September.

The Swimmers is a deeply moving and timely film about a miraculous journey”, says Christian Jungen, Artistic Director. “It shines a light on the refugee crisis, but is also up-lifting and inspiring. We couldn’t imagine a better opening night film. Sally El Hosaini who already with her first feature My Brother the Devil won an award at Sundance is among the most talented new voices in auteur cinema. Being a festival committed to new talents it is a great pleasure to present her new work in the presence of German star Matthias Schweighöfer.”

El Hosaini added: “I’m thrilled that the extraordinary true life story of the Mardini sisters will open the 18th Zurich Film Festival as our European premiere. Never has there been such an important time for Europeans to see a film that elevates the visibility of refugees and honours those who risk their lives to have a better, safer life.”

El Hosaini will be joined by cast Nathalie Issa and Matthias Schweighöfer, along with Sara and Yusra Mardini and swimming coach Sven Spannenkrebs at the film’s European premiere at ZFF.

The Swimmers follows the journey made by sisters Yusra and Sara Mardini. In 2015, after their house was destroyed in the Syrian Civil War, the sisters fled the country as refugees. 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, the sisters and others who could swim, ensured the safety of the passengers. They went on to settle in Germany, with Yusra taking up training again with coach Sven Spannenkrebs and going on to compete at the 2016 Olympics as part of the Refugee Olympic Team.

It stars Nathalie Issa, Manal Issa, Matthias Schweighöfer, Ahmed Malek, James Krishna Floyd, Elmi Rashid Elmi, Kinda Alloush and Ali Suliman. It is directed and written by Sally El Hosaini and co-written by multi-award-winning screenwriter and playwright Jack Thorne, with Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner alongside Ali Jaafar and Tim Cole producing, with Stephen Daldry as executive producing. The Swimmers will be out on Netflix later this year.

The European premiere will take place on Thursday, September 22, at the 1200 seat Convention Center, with an additional public screening at the Corso cinema. The complete programme of the 18th Zurich Film Festival will be published on the website on Thursday, September 8, from 12 noon local time. Ticket sales will start on Monday, September 12, from 12 noon local time.

This year's Zurich Film Festival will take place from September 22 to October 2, 2022. For more info and to purchase tickets, check out their website.

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