Billy Elliot director Stephen Daldrys latest protagonist is Yusra Mardini, who fled conflict in Syria and became Olympic swimmer
Stephen Daldrys films have chronicled the lives and struggles of Brazilian street children, the madness and melancholy of Virginia Woolf, and, most famously of all, the trials and triumphs of a young boy from County Durham who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer.
Few of his characters, however, have had to show quite as much resilience and determination as his latest protagonist, Yusra Mardini.
The Billy Elliot director is now attached to a film about the teenage Syrian refugee who fled her home in Damascus in 2015, survived a perilous crossing of the Mediterranean and went on to compete at the Rio Olympics last year.
Mardini already a promising swimmer and her sister Sara travelled from Syria to Lebanon and then on to the Turkish port of Izmir, where they climbed into an overcrowded dinghy bound for the Greek island of Lesbos.
They were less than half an hour into their journey when the motor stopped and the boat threatened to capsize. Of the 20 people aboard, only three knew how to swim: the Mardini sisters and another woman. For more than three hours, they did what had to be done, swimming alongside the dinghy, pushing, pulling and cajoling it until they reached land.
I thought it would be a real shame if I drowned in the sea, because I am a swimmer, Yusra recalled a few months afterwards.
She eventually settled in Germany, where she began training with Sven Spannekrebs, a coach at a swimming club in Berlin. Within months, Mardini was in Brazil, one of the 43 stateless athletes competing in Rio as the first ever refugee team. On 6 August last year, she won the opening heat of the 100m butterfly.
Everything was amazing, she said afterwards. The only thing I ever wanted was to compete in the Olympics. I had a good feeling in the water. Competing with all these great champions is exciting. Ive only been back swimming for two years so were only now getting back to my levels of before.
Since then, Mardini, who is now 19, has travelled the world acting as an ambassador for refugees, meeting President Obama and Pope Francis and delivering speeches to the World Economic Forum in Davos.