The Swimmers Star Nathalie Issa Shares Importance Of Representing The Syrian Refugee Crisis In The Netflix Film

Among Netflix’s 2022 releases is a film called The Swimmers, which tells the story of Sara and Yusra Mardini, two Syrian refugees who heroically swam a dinghy of refugees to shore after their boat broke down in the middle of the Aegean Sea. It’s an affecting true story that shows the experiences of millions by way of these two incredible sisters. With the film now out, and successful on the streaming platform, Nathalie Issa, who plays Yusra, is explaining the importance of representing the Syrian refugee crisis on film. 

While speaking with CinemaBlend, Issa opened up about The Swimmers and shared her thoughts on bringing the stories of Syrian refugees into the zeitgeist. As she explained: 

What [the sisters have] been through, it's something that a lot of people go through, a lot of refugees go through. [The film is made] to ring a bell about what's going on, and what's like, what has been going on, what's still going on. And what will happen, unfortunately, the next day in the next month is that people are forced to flee their country.

For some context, according to the UN Refugee Agency over 6.8 million Syrians have been forced to leave their country since 2011, and another 6.9 million are currently displaced within the Middle Eastern country. When fleeing many moved to countries like Germany, which is where the Mardini sisters and 620,000 other refugees ended up. 

Issa elaborated on why seeing refugees’ stories on the screen is particularly meaningful, saying a lot of people put their lives in danger when they flee their country to be safe. One reason she loves movies is you can “tell the stories of millions” while focusing in on one story, and more people have a chance to understand what is going on. She also said: 

Also, we were so happy to represent Syria in a beautiful way, in such an authentic way. Without these cliches, and so [this movie] is just to show, for example, especially the western world, ‘look, this is what's happening in the Middle East.’ This is how people behave in the Middle East. It's not this different than you guys. And so it's also something I really enjoyed.

Issa then talked about how the film has gotten “amazing reviews,” and that she’s gotten comments about people watching the film and being moved by it. By the film being on such a massive platform like Netflix, millions of people are now able to, and have (it was trending on Netflix) watched this harrowing story about the Mardini sisters. 

Following the sister’s swim, Yusra went on to become an Olympic swimmer for the IOC Refugee Olympic Team, competing at the 2016 and 2020 summer games. She also has been posting about her love for the movie, reacting to the scenes, and answering fans’ questions about the movie on TikTok. 

Seeing The Swimmers and hearing Issa passionately talk about the significance of the film is inspiring, and the film really showed me how much it impacted not only those who made it, but those who have seen it too. 

If you are interested in watching this moving film on the 2022 movie schedule, you can check out The Swimmers with a Netflix subscription

Riley Utley
Weekend Editor

Riley Utley is the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. She has written for national publications as well as daily and alt-weekly newspapers in Spokane, Washington, Syracuse, New York and Charleston, South Carolina. She graduated with her master’s degree in arts journalism and communications from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University. Since joining the CB team she has covered numerous TV shows and movies -- including her personal favorite shows Ted Lasso and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She also has followed and consistently written about everything from Taylor Swift to Fire Country, and she's enjoyed every second of it.