Directed by Sally El Hosaini, Netflix’s biographical film ‘The Swimmers’ follows the true story of Sara Mardini and Yusra Mardini, two Syrian sisters whose survival gets threatened due to the Syrian Civil War. The sisters, who are also professional swimmers, decide to leave for Germany to set up stable lives for themselves and the rest of their family members, who plan to join them in the future. The film progresses through Yusra’s efforts to fulfill her ambition of becoming an Olympian while dealing with the difficulties of being a refugee on German soil. Intrigued by the heart-touching film, we have compiled a list of recommendations that can be considered after watching the El Hosaini-directorial. You can watch most of these movies similar to ‘The Swimmers’ on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime.
8. Dive (2018)
‘The Swimmers’ depicts the challenges Yusra and Sara face while they try to fulfill their ambition of becoming Olympian swimmers. Their dreams get tested by the Syrian Civil War, forcing them to make a decision that changes their lives forever. Daniel F. Holmes’ drama film ‘Dive’ follows a swimmer like Yusra and Sara, named Laura, who discovers that she is pregnant not long before she is expected to participate in the most significant competition of her career. Like the two Syrian sisters, Laura is also forced to make a life-altering and career-defining decision. Both films explore the hardships an athlete needs to endure to fulfill their ambitions.
7. Nadia, Butterfly (2020)
In ‘The Swimmers,’ Yusra sacrifices a lot to become an Olympian. After putting her life on the line to end up in Germany, she finds a coach who accepts her as his disciple and helps her find a way to participate in the 2016 Rio Olympics. But what exactly happens to any athlete like Yusra after they fulfill their dream of becoming an Olympian? Pascal Plante’s film ‘Nadia, Butterfly’ is the answer. The film revolves around Nadia, an Olympic swimmer who confronts the need for early retirement. She deals with the challenges that arise after she materializes her dream, described by Pascal as “post-Olympic blues.” A real-life Olympian swimmer named Katerine Savard plays Nadia in the film.
6. Welcome (2009)
One of the heart-rending sequences in ‘The Swimmers’ includes Yusra and Sara swimming across the Aegean Sea for several hours to enter Greece, from where they leave for Germany. Philippe Lioret’s French film ‘Welcome’ follows an Iraqi-Kurd immigrant named Bilal Kayani, who confronts the need for swimming across the English Channel from Calais, France, to end up in the United Kingdom. Although the Syrian sisters swim for rebuilding their lives in Germany and Bilal tries to swim for reuniting with his girlfriend, the three of them endure similar experiences as immigrants.
Similar to the relationship between Yusra and her swimming coach Sven, Lioret’s film also portrays an affecting relationship between Bilal and his swimming coach Simon. Both Sven and Simon try to enhance the lives of their disciples on foreign soil.
5. Styx (2018)
Sally El Hosaini’s film is also about how Sara and Yusra save the lives of around twenty refugees by stepping out of a dinghy offshore and swimming for around three hours to reach Greece. Directed by Wolfgang Fischer, ‘Styx’ depicts the life of Rike, a German emergency doctor who encounters a trawler filled with around a hundred refugees while she sails in a boat. When her calls for help don’t yield any result, Rike risks her own life to save the lives of the refugees, who have managed to stay alive despite the heart-rending difficulties they had to endure. Rike, like the two Syrian sisters, unflinchingly puts her life on the line to save fellow humans. Both films are significantly set offshore, exploring the realities of the refugee experience.
4. The Good Lie (2014)
Throughout the history of mankind, civil wars have unsettled nations and forced millions and millions to seek refuge in foreign countries. In ‘The Swimmers,’ Yusra and Sara are forced to leave Damascus due to the Syrian Civil War. In ‘The Good Lie,’ a group of Sudanese siblings is forced to leave for the United States when the Second Sudanese Civil War kills the rest of their family and destroys their village. Both Sally El Hosaini and Philippe Falardeau’s films explore what it means to be a refugee as the principal characters of both films are forced to leave their home countries for their survival.
3. The Man Who Sold His Skin (2020)
In ‘The Swimmers,’ Yusra and Sara are forced to part ways with their father Ezzat Mardini, mother Mervat Mardini, and their youngest sister due to the Syrian Civil War. Even after the two sisters end up in Germany, they worry about their family and stoop to sadness due to their separation. Kaouther Ben Hania’s film ‘The Man Who Sold His Skin’ is another film that focuses on a separation caused by the Syrian Civil War. In the wake of the War, Sam and Abeer get separated and the latter ends up in Brussels, Belgium. The film depicts Sam’s efforts to travel to Europe to reunite with his lover.
While Yusra and Sara swim across the sea to build new lives in Germany, Sam tattoos a Schengen visa on his back. Although their actions differ, they are caused by the same war and motivated by the characters’ desire to end up in Europe.
2. Capernaum (2018)
Nadine Labaki’s Lebanese film ‘Capernaum’ follows the life of Zain El Hajj, a 12-year-old boy who takes civil action against his parents for giving birth to him. The film explores the plight of a young child, who tries his best to survive in a chaotic world that isn’t fit for living. Like Yusra and Sara seeking refuge in Germany, Zain aspires to leave for Sweden to escape the atrocities he has been enduring in Lebanon. Through the character Maysoun, a Syrian refugee, Labaki also explores the Syrian Civil War. Zain Al Rafeea, who plays the protagonist Zain, is a Syrian refugee.
1. Limbo (2020)
Through the experiences of Yusra and Sara, ‘The Swimmers’ explores the intricacies that are associated with refugees seeking asylum in a foreign country. The two sisters get engaged with several paperwork, rules, and regulations while seeking refuge in Germany. Likewise, Ben Sharrock’s British film ‘Limbo’ revolves around a group of refugees who ends up on a remote Scottish island, awaiting the status of their asylum requests. Like Yusra and Sara, the protagonist of ‘Limbo’ is a Syrian who is separated from his family. Both films explore the nuances of the refugee experience in different settings.