New Docs is an international agency that specializes in selling documentaries and is based out of Germany. “Long Distance Swimmer: Sara Mardini,” written and directed by Charly Wai Feldman (HBO’s “The Talwars”).
Sara Mardini fled Syria together with Yusra her younger sister in 2015. The motor of their escape boat failed during the crossing from Greece to Syria. So the sisters turned to competitive swimming to save the boat. The story was made famous by the media and can be seen on Netflix. “The Swimmers,” Toronto was opened earlier in the year.
When the drama is over, the documentary starts. Sara was a volunteer for three years to help refugees. She was arrested by Greek authorities in August 2018, and charged with running a criminal organization. “international espionage and people smuggling.” She could spend up to 25 years prison term and lose her humanitarian work if she is convicted. Shot over three years, the film follows Sara’s fight for justice and journey of self-discovery.
Franziska Von Berlepsch worked as an editor and story advisor, while Zamarin Wahdat was DoP.
The film is co-produced by DOCDAYS productions and Safe Passage with SWR. This film was funded by MOIN Filmstiftung as well as the Malik Bendjelloul Memory Fund. Executive producers include Antje Boehmert, Anna von Dziembowska, Daniel Druhora and Drake Burnette. Gudrun Hanske-El Ghomri (Commanding Editor), Bernd Seidl, and Simone Reuter are the SWR editors. It was developed by EURODOC, and took part in Open City Doc Festival’s Assembly Lab as well as First Cut Lab.
Mindjazz Pictures will be distributing theatrically throughout Germany starting in March 2023. The premiere was in Hamburg.
Feldman stated: “Our documentary begins when the Netflix drama ends. Sara’s journey from refugee to humanitarian and accused criminal marks a major shift in attitudes towards refugees and those who help them. It was vital for Sara and our team to put the issue in the spotlight, and so began a layered and intimate portrait of the impact that criminalizing humanitarians has on a deeply personal level.”
Anna von Dziembowska of Safe Passage said: “When I heard about Sara’s arrest in the summer of 2018, I called Daniel Druhora, a friend of Sara’s, to ask how I could help. He said ‘We are filmmakers, let’s make a film.’ And so we did.”
Antje Boehmert, DOCDAYS Productions stated: “When I got to know the project in 2019 and was invited to this co-production, I didn’t hesitate for a second. The film addresses so many issues that we have to negotiate as a society.”
Elina Krewitz, New Docs has been added “We are thrilled to have added ‘Long Distance Swimmer: Sara Mardini’ to our line-up. We have worked with DOCDAYS Productions in the past and we look forward to continuing this fruitful relationship with Charly Wai Feldman’s bigger-than-life story about the Syrian Olympic swimmer Sara Mardini who came to Germany as a refugee in 2015. We started pitching the documentary to festival programmers at the IDFA and hope for a world premiere in the first half of 2023.”