See the First Trailer for Buzzed-About TIFF Drama The Swimmers Based on an Inspiring True Story

·2 min read

Family heroics are front and center in The Swimmers.

Based on the true story of Yusra and Sara Mardini, the upcoming drama "follows the journey from war-torn Syria to the 2016 Rio Olympics," according to an official logline.

"Two young sisters [Nathalie Issa and Manal Issa] embark on a harrowing journey as refugees, putting both their hearts and champion swimming skills to heroic use," the synopsis adds.

The Swimmers is set to serve as the Opening Night Gala Presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival Sept. 8 and is directed by Sally El Hosaini, from a script she co-wrote alongside Jack Thorne.

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The Swimmers. (L to R) Manal Issa as Sara Mardini, Nathalie Issa as Yusra Mardini in The Swimmers. Cr. Ali Güler/Netflix © 2022
The Swimmers. (L to R) Manal Issa as Sara Mardini, Nathalie Issa as Yusra Mardini in The Swimmers. Cr. Ali Güler/Netflix © 2022

Ali Güler/Netflix

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In a release, El Hosaini says The Swimmers "is a film about female emancipation that shows how inner strength rises out of suffering" and "explores the power of ambition and freedom."

"Female ambition is so often a dirty word, but I wanted to celebrate it," she continues. "I saw an opportunity to make complex heroes out of the type of modern, liberal Arab women who exist but rarely appear on our screens."

"The type of Arab women I know, who Yusra and Sara are, who I am," El Hosaini adds. "That's why this story resonated so deeply with me."

While the movie "is very much about two inspirational heroes," both in Yusra and in "the unsung hero," Sara, "at its heart, this is a love story between sisters," El Hosaini says.

The Swimmers. Manal Issa as Sara Mardini in The Swimmers. Cr. Ali Güler/Netflix © 2022
The Swimmers. Manal Issa as Sara Mardini in The Swimmers. Cr. Ali Güler/Netflix © 2022

Ali Güler/Netflix

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"The real journey is the internal one that Yusra and Sara go on separately, and together, as they overcome the difficulties they face and ultimately learn who they really are," the award-winning director adds. "They must accept their differences if they are to be able to love each other. For them, it's a journey from potential competitors to true sisterhood."

The Swimmers. (L to R) Nathalie Issa as Yusra Mardini, Manal Issa as Sara Mardini in The Swimmers. Cr. Laura Radford/Netflix © 2022
The Swimmers. (L to R) Nathalie Issa as Yusra Mardini, Manal Issa as Sara Mardini in The Swimmers. Cr. Laura Radford/Netflix © 2022

Laura Radford/Netflix

In 2016, Jordan's Queen Rania told PEOPLE of Yusra, "She would, literally, have to swim for her life," referring to the now-24-year-old's brave 2015 battle in which she fled her home in Syria and had to hop out and push her fellow refugees on their broken-down dinghy through the Aegean Sea toward Greek shores.

Yusra, who would go on to compete in both the Rio games and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, added to PEOPLE at the time, "A lot of people on the boat said, 'You're really brave.' I said, 'Just shut up until we arrive!' "

The Swimmers is on Netflix Nov. 23.