Watch the first trailer for Netflix drama The Swimmers

Family heroics are front and center in The swimmers.

Based on the true story of Yusra and Sara Mardini, the upcoming drama “follows the journey from war-torn Syria to the 2016 Rio Olympics,” according to an official synopsis.

“Two young sisters [Nathalie Issa and Manal Issa] They embark on a harrowing journey as refugees, putting their hearts and champion swimming skills to heroic use.

The swimmers is scheduled to serve as the opening night gala presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8 and is directed by Sally El Hosaini, from a screenplay she co-wrote with Jack Thorne.

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Ali Guler/Netflix

In a statement, El Hosaini says The swimmers “is a film about female emancipation that shows how inner strength emerges from suffering” and “explores the power of ambition and freedom”.

“Feminine ambition is usually a dirty word, but I wanted to celebrate it,” she continues. “I saw an opportunity to make complex heroes of the kind of modern, liberal Arab women who exist but rarely appear on our screens.”

“The kind of Arab women I know, who are Yusra and Sara, who am I,” adds El Hosaini. “That’s why this story resonated so deeply with me.”

While the film “is very much about two inspiring heroes,” in both Yusra and “the unsung hero,” Sara, “at its core, this is a love story between sisters,” says El Hosaini.

Ali Guler/Netflix

“The real journey is the inner one that Yusra and Sara undertake separately and together, as they overcome the difficulties they face and ultimately discover who they really are,” adds the award-winning director. “They must accept their differences if they want to be able to love each other. For them, it’s a journey from potential competitors to true sisterhood.”

Laura Radford/Netflix

In 2016, Queen Rania of Jordan told PEOPLE of Yusra, “She would literally have to swim for her life,” referring to the 24-year-old’s brave 2015 battle in which she fled her home. in Syria and had to jump. and push her refugee companions in her broken-down boat across the Aegean Sea to the Greek shores.

Yusra, who would compete in both the Rio games and the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, added to PEOPLE at the time: “A lot of people on the boat said, ‘You’re so brave.’ I said, ‘Just shut up! until we get there!’ ”

The swimmers is on Netflix on November 23.

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