TIFF announced today that the Opening Night Gala for the 47th Festival will be Sally El Hosaini’s ‘s The Swimmers.

Based on a true story, The Swimmers follows the journey from war-torn Syria to the 2016 Rio Olympics. Two young sisters embark on a harrowing journey as refugees, putting both their hearts and champion swimming skills to heroic use.

The Swimmers was the very best kind of surprise when we saw it this summer — an exciting, epic journey and the arrival of an important filmmaker. I’m thrilled that audiences in Toronto will be the first to discover Sally El Hosaini’s remarkable film, and that this year on our Opening Night we can honour everyone who risks everything to reach a better, safer life,” said TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey.

“I’m ecstatic. What an honour and privilege to open TIFF with the inspirational true-life story of the Mardini sisters,” said director El Hosaini. “A city as multicultural and diverse as Toronto is the perfect place to debut our film that elevates the visibility and voice of refugees, reminding us that the human capacity to survive is stronger than most of us know.”

Since the Syrian war began, 73,000 Syrian refugees have settled in Canada, with many in Toronto—another reason why The Swimmers is a great choice for opening night.

This film about sisterhood and survival will undoubtedly resonate many—we can’t wait to watch it at Roy Thomson Hall. Ticket packages are now on sale