In 2015, sisters Yusra and Sara Mardini, trained as professional swimmers by their father, fled Syria with hopes of escaping their war-torn homeland. During the harrowing 25-day journey, the dinghy’s motor broke and the boat began to sink—so Yusra and Sara jumped into the frigid waters to drag the boat to shore. Eventually granted asylum in Germany, Yusra began training again at a Berlin pool and was selected to compete as part of the Refugee Olympic Team at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Their story has been captured in The Swimmers, an evocative biographical drama directed by Sally El Hosaini and released on Netflix last month. In this Q&A, Sally El Hosaini and Yusra Mardini discuss the experience of making the film, how to tell true stories, and what they hope viewers will take away.