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A Must Watch: The Swimmers

When it comes to hearing stories that are simultaneously harrowing as they are inspiring, I find myself lost for words – rare for an English teacher, I know!

Manal Issa and Nathalie Issa laughing and smiling in the show “The Swimmers.”
Actors, Manal Issa and Nathalie Issa, in “The Swimmers” playing the role of Olympic athletes and sisters Sara and Yursa Mardini

I’m going to be honest – I don’t love watching films. I’d much rather binge-watch multiple episodes of a true-crime documentary than commit to watching a movie. It’s partly my tendency towards restlessness as well as my love of an early bedtime that deters me from making a 2+ hour commitment. But the holidays are an exception!


I sat down to watch ‘The Swimmers’ on Netflix. I had read some of the sensational reviews about the movie that came from the Toronto International Film Festival and, given my interest in literature concerning the immigrant experience, a few students had recommended it to me.

On 28th December I sat down to watch the movie. I can’t remember the last time I was so captivated by a film. The film is based on two real-life sisters from Syria – Yusra and Sara Mardini – who fled their war-torn home in Damascus, swam for hours in choppy Mediterranean seas to reach Greece as asylum seekers before going on to compete at the Rio Olympic Games.


I should have something more poignant or intellectual to say about the film. But sometimes when it comes to hearing stories that are simultaneously harrowing as they are inspiring, I find myself lost for words – rare for an English teacher, I know! So instead of finding something salient to say, I’ve put together a free resource on an extract from Yusra Mardini’s autobiography for teachers to use in class. You can use this source material as a springboard into some really important conversations alongside practising language analysis skills.


You can download the lesson for free on Teachers Pay Teachers.

And if you aren’t a teacher, then I implore you to watch the movie. You won’t regret it.








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(Photo description: two sisters in the ocean smiling and laughing. One sister is on the other sister's back.)

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