Yusra Mardini's Story Gets The Hollywood Treatment
A Quick Film Review
Swimmer Yusra Mardini's road to the Olympics received a lot of attention at Rio 2016 - compelling in its foundation of a dramatic survival as an asylum-seeker-turned-Olympian, it finally has a cinematic outlet in The Swimmers, released this week on Netflix.
That alone is enough for a media firestorm, but The Swimmers is here to provide context. So, we see the Mardinis in a relatively standard and stable household, with the sisters trying to live carefree lives as much as possible before the volatile political civil war encroaches too close. Yes, the sea crossing with its dramatic overnight swim is the highlight, but far from the only difficult moment of an arduous journey. Yusra and Sara, their cousin Nizar, and the multiple fellow refugees from across various origins face uncertain routes, questionable guides, the threat of arrest, and discrimination from locals, and worse, on their way to safety. But once in Berlin, the sisters find some sense of stability despite, with Yusra making her way to a local swim club to continue training. From there, it's onward to the Rio Games despite some reluctance accepting 'refugee' nomination.
Yes, The Swimmers provides a certain level of Hollywood-ization breeziness about it all, but it is fresh to see not only a remarkable Olympian's story, but a refugee's story. It's a reminder of the humanity behind asylum seekers' journeys that are too often reduced to headlines. And, credit to The Swimmers for making the story as much about Sara as Yusra. Sara, not as accomplished nor driven a swimmer as the younger Yusra, is equal a hero in the crossing, and her own search to find purpose in her new home is thankfully acknowledged.
That breeziness mentioned earlier is an unfortunate distraction, but, in the end, The Swimmers is a must-watch for Olympic fans to commemorate one of the most colorful and impactful stories of recent Games. And, who doesn't choke up when watching stirring Olympic competition, even if cinematically-driven?