The Mardini sisters’ story is shared in Netflix’s ‘The Swimmers’


Photo courtesy of IMDb

Manal Issa and Nathalie Issa laughing and smiling in the show “The Swimmers.” November 2022 Netflix release show “The Swimmers” is a biograph focused and based off the journey of 2016 Olympics athletes and sisters Sara and Yursa Mardini.

By Lucy Bridges, Staff Writer

Netflix original film “The Swimmers” was released on Netflix Nov. 23. The film was directed by filmmaker Sally El Hosaini, who directed and wrote the film “My Brother the Devil,” which was also written by Jack Thorne, writer of the famous Enola Holmes films.

“The Swimmers” is based on the true story of two Syrian sisters, Sara and Yusra Mardini, played by real-life sisters Manal and Nathalie Issa respectively. The Mardini sisters are swimmers training to be part of the Syrian Olympic Team, but, in the midst of their training, they decide to escape war-ridden Syria in hopes of reaching Germany so they can apply for family reunion, bringing their family out of the dangers they face at home. 

The treacherous journey across land and sea tests the physical and mental strength of the Mardini sisters, but the other refugees they meet along the way and the hopes of reuniting with their family push the pair forward. 

“The Swimmers” has a strong cast featuring Ahmed Malek, who plays Nizar, Yusra and Sara’s cousin from Syria who accompanies them on their journey, Matthias Schweighöfer, who plays Sven, the sisters’ swimming coach in Germany, James Floyd, who plays Emad, a new friend and refugee from Afghanistan and Nahel Tzegai, who plays Shada, a mother and refugee from Eritrea. 

The first part of the film focuses on Yusra and Sara’s life in Syria, highlighting the normal teenage parts of their lives like going to swim practice, playing at the pool, having birthday parties and going dancing with friends. But, all of these seemingly normal parts of their lives are affected by the violence in Syria, as they experience the loss of friends from bombings and face threats in their everyday lives, showing the audience the unimaginable difficulties that they go through as they try to navigate life during a time of unrest. 

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As the sisters’ journey to Germany unfolds, the audience gets a glimpse into the motivations that motivate Yusra and Sara to continue walking across Europe or to continue to swim across the choppy waters of the Greek Sea. Sara is motivated by her promise to protect her younger sister throughout the journey and by the possibility of reuniting, not only their family, but other families who power through the same journey that she and Yusra experienced.

In addition to longing for the reunification of her family, protecting herself and her sister and helping protect the other refugees, Yusra is also powered by her desire to swim at the Olympics and represent her people in front of the world. While at the refugee camp, Yusra strength trains and takes it upon herself to find a coach that will help her achieve her dream and help keep her mind occupied as she awaits the opportunity to bring her family to Germany. 

The design and direction of the film evokes raw emotion from the actors as they represent the taxing journey of refugees. The dried and burnt skin on the refugees after many hours on a boat in the sea, scenes of people living in refugee camps for months and the evolution of Yusra and Sara’s relationship, realistically portrayed through the powerful acting of Manal and Nathalie Issa, contributes to the power behind “The Swimmers.”

“The Swimmers” is a film that relies on every detail to tell the inspiring story of the Mardini sisters. The story of Sara and Yusra Mardini opens the audience’s eyes to just one of millions of refugee stories. 


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