Brit production powerhouse Working Title Films has picked up rights to the life story of Syrian swimmer Yusra Mardini, the teenage Olympian refugee who dragged a dinghy of refugees to safety across the Aegean Sea. Working Title co-chairman Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner will develop and produce a film version of her story alongside The Idol producer Ali Jaafar with Billy Elliot and The Reader helmer Stephen Daldry attached to direct the life-inspiring project.
The film will tell the true story of Mardini, an Olympic swimmer and Syrian refugee who made headlines when the tale of her heroism while making the perilous journey off the coast of Turkey came to light last year.
Growing up in Syria, Mardini was a promising swimmer. After life in the war-torn nation had quickly become too dangerous, she fled with her sister in 2015 and traveled to Europe only to face numerous life-threatening situations, most notably while on a boat with other refugees looking to flee to the Greek island of Lesbos. While at sea, their plight took a turn for the worse as the boat began to sink, endangering the lives of all on board. Using their swimming skills, the two sisters heroically jumped into the sea and pushed the boat for more than three hours through the freezing waters to safety.
But her extraordinary story didn’t end there: Settling in Berlin, without any other family or friends, Mardini and Sara were forced to fend for themselves before Mardini met local swimming coach Sven Spannekrebs, who took her under his wing. During the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil, the IOC launched for the first time ever a Team Refugee. Against the odds, Mardini made it to the Olympics and won her qualifying heat during the games. Since then, she’s become an impassioned champion and ambassador for refugees across the world meeting world leaders such as President Barak Obama and the Pope and delivering a series of keynote speeches at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“It’s rare to find a story whose truth makes it emotionally more powerful than fiction can ever be,” said Fellner. “The physical, spiritual and geographical journey that Yusra and Sara undertook is quite unbelievable.”
Said Daldry: “I am thrilled to be involved in bringing Yusra’s extraordinary story to a wider audience through the medium of film. Yusra reminds us of the human cost of the tragedy and the incredible fortitude, perserverance and hope of one young woman who truggles for a future. Yusra’s dream of living in peace is the story of our time.”
Jaafar added: “In a time of such uncertainty and fear, Yusra’s incredible story is a shining reminder that what binds us together is so much stronger than what keeps us apart. At its heart, this is the story of someone who had a dream and was able to overcome the most immense obstacles to achieve it.”
“I am very happy that we have finalized this project and I’m really exciting about developing the film,” said Mardini.
Mardini is managed by Marc Heinkelein from StageField Management.