Real Refugee Story Praised for Touching Drama, But Swims in Shallow Waters

Language: English (Hindi voice option available)

Cast: Natalie Issa, Manal Issa, Ahmed Malek, Matthias Schweigoffer, James Krishna Floyd, Ali Suliman, Kinda Arush, Elmi Rasheed Elmi

Director: Salih El Hossaini

In 2015, sisters Yusra Maldini and Sara Maldini fled war-torn Syria, ravaged by bomb scare and widespread political unrest. They managed to reach Turkey and made a deal with a barker to be smuggled with other refugees by sea to the Greek island of Lesbos. The plan goes awry when an overcrowded inflatable dinghy breaks down in the middle of the ocean. The sisters then face hardship and swim to the shore, saving the lives of fellow refugees in the process. Even more incredible, Yusra fulfilled her Olympic dream as a swimmer the following year, representing her team at the Refugee Olympic Games in Rio 2016. She also participated in the Tokyo Olympics four years after her and was nominated for UNHCR Goodwill. she is an ambassador

Salih El Hossaini’s film is based on the true story of the Maldini sisters and is uplifting cinematic material. A story of resilience and courage that marks the triumph of the human spirit continues to awe, amaze and inspire. Providing just the right amount of drama, such cinematic efforts also find a prepared audience. Given the film’s story, El Hossaini and co-screenwriter Jack Thorne get plenty of scope to tick the appropriate boxes in their social message. As Yusra and Sara’s real-life adventures unfold, the script gives voice to the forsaken and marginalized. The focus is on the dangers the refugees face and the despair wrought by the violence of the war (in the highlight scene, after the sisters and their fellow refugees manage to reach the shore, they are scattered everywhere). They find countless life jackets, and after surviving rough seas suddenly realize the new struggle they now face: thousands of refugees have already arrived before them, or they with the same plans as them). Without being too graphic in its portrayal of the atrocities of war or the trauma of refugees, Elle Her Hossaini mixes in so many sordid truths to set up a young adult-friendly viewing experience.

The makers of films based on underdogs who thrive in sports strive to meet several primary demands. First, it’s important to strike the right balance between sports drama and the hardships faced by the main characters. We don’t overextend the storytelling process to accommodate both. Second, over the years, the underdog life story as a genre seems to have exhausted almost all the stories to be told, in terms of emotion and melodrama. For us, it has become important to discover deeper contexts beyond the obvious formulas that serve entertainment. El Hossaini’s film was set against a precarious backdrop of turbulence in the Middle East and a never-ending refugee crisis, and he had ready-made material at hand to dig deep.

As evocative as the story of Yusra and Sara, and all the more hopeful, El Hossaini’s cinematic interpretation shows no ambition to scale up to the next level. Also, while telling the story of the Maldini sisters, you quickly begin to realize that the storytelling is taking up far more running time than it should. At about 134 minutes, the movie seems stretched especially in the second half, after her brilliant first hour highlighted by the sister’s escape drama. El Hossaini, however, paints a poignant picture of the hardships faced by refugees. You feel sad for a bunch of homeless people who fall prey to scammers who swindle their last financial resources.

But such snippets of life are common to all refugee films. While these moments serve as ample reminders of the plight that war-torn peoples face across the globe, adding to the film’s drama and emotional quotient, these tracks are thematically-infused into the film. The film shows no interest in exploring the strong themes at hand. El Hosaini and co-author Thorne seem content to use the story of Yusra and Sara to create a mainstream entertainer. It works remarkably well, but it prevents the film from being truly remarkable.

In fact, El Hossaini is so concerned with capturing the suspenseful drama in the lives of Yusra and Sarah that it overlooks the need to embody the sisters’ identities as individuals beyond the script’s heroes. In fact, the flat character setting affects the cast as a whole, but despite the limitations, most of the prop actors are genuine in portraying their roles. I mentioned. She set her sights on her real-life sisters Natalie and Manal her Issa, playing Yusra and Sara. French-Lebanese actress Manal Issa is already a household name. She pairs well with newcomer Natalie to bring the Maldini sisters to life on screen.

The film is shot in real locations and impressively captured by Christopher Ross’ cinematography. There’s a gritty quality about the frames that are particularly effective in recreating the dangers the sisters and their fellow refugees experience while surviving their ordeal at sea. It could have gotten tighter with the creeping second half, and it’s as if El Hosaini wasn’t sure how to sustain the intrigue inherent in these sisters’ tales after the engaging first half. Notable in the mainstream atmosphere of the film is Stephen Price’s score. The film’s soundtrack features songs featuring his top Arab pop stars, including Tunisian avant-garde singer Emer, Palestinian and Jordanian electronica group 47Soul, and Palestinian hip-hop band DAM.

This is the kind of film you easily fall in love with, given that it brings an amazing tale of courage and optimism to the screen and never misses a feel-good vibe. El He said that fact should have been a tremendous advantage for Hossaini and Thorne, inspiring them to push the general boundaries of refugee drama beyond the larger-than-life melodrama they set up. swimmers We could have done more.

Rating: * * * and 1/2 (3.5 stars out of 5)

The Swimmers is streaming on Netflix

Vinayak Chakravorty is a critic, columnist and film journalist based in Delhi NCR.

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