The Swimmers: The journey towards the bliss

As Sia said “I put my armor on, show you how strong I am. I’m unstoppable”. 

Genres: Drama/Sport
Director: Sally El Hosaini
Writers: Sally El Hosaini and Jack Thorne 
Starring: Natalie Issa, Manal Issa, Matthias Schweighöfer, Kinda Alloush, Ahmed Malek, Ali Suliman


From the war zone in Syria to the Rio De Janeiro 2016 Olympics. How is that for a big change? The Swimmers takes us on an inspirational journey with the two young sisters, Sara and Yusra Mardini as they embark on a trip of escaping war-torn Syria with their cousin, Nizar.

The new hit movie by Netflix is directed by Sally El Hosaini creating a harrowing depiction of the true events that the sisters went through as refugees only to become two influential personalities, Yusra by becoming a professional swimmer and Sara by becoming a humanitarian aid worker.


Usually movies have a common principal goal which is: win the olympics. However in Swimmers, the principal goal is to: escape the warzone alive. That’s what happened, when Yusra and Sara escaped the country, and with the cherry on top, Yusra won the first Refugee Olympic Team.

On a mission to reach Berlin, Germany, in 2015 the two sisters undergo a challenge when crossing from Turkey to the Lebos, a Greek island. Being professionally trained by their father, they both jumped in the heart of the Mediterranean sea and swam for three and a half hours to help the jammed boat complete the trip.

The most heart wrenching scene throughout the movie was when they arrived in Lesbos and the camera pulled back to display a vast torrent of refugees’ life jackets filling the entire frame. In an interview, Yusra Mardini confirmed that this was the exact scene they saw as soon as they arrived on the island of Greece.


The story behind portrayal through Sia’s songs

The director Sally asked Yusra to list down the songs that hype her up and motivate her before competitions. The list was filled with the songs of Sia including Titanium and unstoppable. 


Movie vs. Reality 

How accurate is the movie?

For the most part, the story stays true to what happened in real life with the Mardini family, but there are some differences between the film and the reality that was lived.

  • Yusra explains how the scene was shot in the exact spot the actual incident happened within one day to perfect the scene. “When you see people throwing up on the boat, they were actually throwing up on the boat” mentioned Yusra on her tiktok account. 
  • Most of the refugee characters were fictionalized in the film however, they did meet 30 people who were escaping the horrors along with them. “The point of the fiction is to show what is happening with refugees,” said Yusra.
  • The journey of the sisters was accompanied by two cousins, however in the film it is depicted by Nizar alone which was represented by a combination of both cousins. 


Where is the Mardini family now?

Yusra lives in Berlin and goes to the University of Southern California as a Film and Television Production Major. She is still swimming and is qualified for the Syrian team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but opted to swim on the refugee team, which she joined again for the 2022 FINA World Championships in Budapest.

Sara was a fan of swimming but she quit right after arriving in Germany due to a shoulder injury. She was then arrested in Lesbos for refugee activism where she was charged for ‘spying and smuggling’ and was then placed in jail for three months. It is possible for her to face 25 years in prison and is currently awaiting a court session in January. 


Their family followed them a year later, and currently resides in Berlin. The dad, Ezzat Mardini, still works as a swimming coach, their mother, Mervat Mardini, is now working as a physical therapist, and their younger sister is only 15 years old and still completing her studies. 

Just like Yusra mentioned, they were accompanied by two cousins but the closest one to them was Nizar who currently still resides in Berlin and is studying.

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