Netflix premieres The Swimmers on Wednesday, a true story of two sisters from Syria who were forced to flee their country becoming refugees on Lesvos, Greece.
The biographical drama tells the story of Yusra and Sarah Mardini, who, in 2015, had to swim for their lives to reach Lesvos after their inflatable dinghy broke down in the middle of the Aegean Sea.
A year later, Yusra competed in the 100-meter freestyle at Rio 2016 as part of the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team. On April 27, 2017, she was appointed a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador. She also competed in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo with the Refugee Olympic Team (EOR).
On May 3, 2018, her autobiography, Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian—My Story of Rescue, Hope, and Triumph, was published.
Meanwhile, in 2018, Sarah ended up in a maximum-security prison in the Greek capital, charged with spying, people smuggling, and belonging to a criminal organization.
Their story has been brought to life in Sally El Hosaini’s drama. The film stars Nathalie Issa, Manal Issa, Ahmed Malek, Matthias Schweighöfer, Ali Suliman, Kinda Alloush, James Krishna Floyd, and Elmi Rashid Elmi.
The Swimmers had its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2022 and was released in select cinemas on November 11, 2022.
Lesvos, Greece entry point for refugees like Netflix’s swimmers
In September of 2015, migrants and asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq began arriving on the shores of Lesvos.
“Over the course of 2015, the island hosted more than half a million migrants and asylum seekers,” said The Migration Policy Institute. “This represents about 59 [percent] of all asylum seekers and migrants who transited through Greece that year [on the way] to destinations in northern Europe.”
The influx of refugees and migrants decreased after the European Union and Turkey signed an agreement in March 2016 to curb the influx of refugees entering Europe. Under the agreement, asylum seekers who take clandestine routes to Greece from Turkey were to be sent back.
Netflix to screen first Greek series
Earlier in November, it was announced that Maestro, the highly successful Greek series of director and actor Christoforos Papakaliatis that is currently airing on Mega channel, is coming to Netflix.
The popular streaming platform recently bought worldwide rights.
The drama series, written by Papakaliatis, will air in Greece and Cyprus on December 19, 2022. It will then premiere for the first time to audiences worldwide in early 2023. Papakaliatis also directed and starred in Maestro.
Papakaliatis said, ”I hold Maestro very close to my heart and I feel deeply honored and happy that this story will travel around the world through Netflix. I’m looking forward to this journey.”