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Arab director Sally El-Hosaini’s film ‘The Swimmers’ to open Toronto Film Festival

DUBAI: Egyptian-Welsh director Sally El-Hosaini’s drama “The Swimmers” is set to open the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 8, which will also mark the movie’s world premiere.

The work is based on the true story of Syrian refugees Sarah and Yusra Mardini who fled their war-torn country by boat and had to swim part of the way to keep the vessel moving. Yusra competed as a member of the Refugee Olympic Athletes’ contingent at the 2016 and 2020 Olympics.

In a statement, the festival’s CEO Cameron Bailey said: “I was deeply moved by the story of these two sisters and wowed by the storytelling. ‘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.”

Syrian refugees and swimmers Yusra and Sarah Mardini pose for photographers with the trophy at the Bambi awards on Nov 17, 2016 in Berlin. (AFP)

“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 honor everyone who risks everything to reach a better, safer life,” added Bailey.

Lebanese actresses, and real-life sisters, Manal and Nathalie Issa, will portray Yusra and Sarah in the upcoming movie.

They will be joined by Arab-Israeli actor Ali Suliman, Egyptian actor Ahmed Malek, Syrian actress Kinda Alloush and “The Good Karma Hospital” star James Krishna Floyd, who starred in El-Hosaini’s last film “My Brother the Devil,” which won the World Cinema Cinematography award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.

Rounding out the cast are German actor Matthias Schweighöfer and YouTube star Elmi Rashid Elmi.

The film is be produced by Netflix and Working Title’s Eric and Tim Bevan, Ali Jaafar and Tim Cole.

“The Swimmers,” shot in the UK, Turkey and Belgium, is slated for global release on Netflix this year.

The lineup of the Toronto Film Festival, which will take place from Sept. 8 to 18, includes US actress Viola Davis’ historical epic “The Woman King,” US actor Billy Eichner’s rom com “Bros,” and British star Daniel Craig’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”

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