The refugee drama “The Swimmers” by Welsh-Egyptian director Sally El Hosaini will open the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival on September 8 at Roy Thomson Hall.
The Swimmers recounts a true story of two young sisters who set out on a perilous voyage as refugees from war-torn Syria to the 2016 Rio Olympics using both their champion swimming abilities and their emotions to great use.
“I was deeply moved by the story of these two sisters and wowed by the storytelling,” said TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey. “The Swimmers was the very best kind of surprise when we saw it this summer — an exciting, epic journey and the arrival of an important filmmaker. I’m thrilled that audiences in Toronto will be the first to discover Sally El Hosaini’s remarkable film, and that this year on our Opening Night we can honour everyone who risks everything to reach a better, safer life,” he added.
“I’m ecstatic. What an honour and privilege to open TIFF with the inspirational true-life story of the Mardini sisters,” said El Hosaini, whose acclaimed debut feature My Brother the Devil screened at over 40 international festivals, winning 12 awards, 17 nominations and an honourable mention.
“A city as multicultural and diverse as Toronto is the perfect place to debut our film that elevates the visibility and voice of refugees, reminding us that the human capacity to survive is stronger than most of us know,” the director added.
The screenplay is written by El Hosaini and BAFTA winner Jack Thorne (“Help”). Lebanese sisters Manal and Nathalie Issa (“My Favorite Fabric”) play Mardini sisters Yusra and Sarah.
“My Brother the Devil” star James Krishna Floyd is also in the cast, as are Ahmed Malek (“About Her”), Matthias Schweighöfer (“The Break Up Man”), Ali Suliman (“200 Meters”), Kinda Alloush (“Except Me”), and Elmi Rashid Elmi (“Trying”).
The film, which was produced by Working Title’s Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner with Ali Jaafar and Tim Cole and Stephen Daldry serving as executive producer, was filmed in the UK, Turkey, and Belgium.