Fri, 17 Sep 2021

Film by acclaimed Syrian filmmaker follows athletes competing at this years Olympic Games Tokyo 2020

LOS ANGELES, CA / ACCESSWIRE / August 4, 2021 / Award-winning nonfiction studio XTR today announced a new documentary feature on celebrated IOC Refugee Olympic Team directed by Waad Al-Kateab, following her Oscar®-nominated debut, For Sama, and produced by Oscar®-winner Joanna Natasegara (The Edge of Democracy, The White Helmets, Virunga) of Violet Films and two time Oscar® nominee Bryn Mooser. The film is backed by Joe Gebbia, designer and co-founder of Airbnb, a longtime advocate of refugee issues. Gebbia is joined as Executive Producer by Jason Ropell and Nevine Mabro, and by XTR Executive Producers Justin Lacob and Kathryn Everett.

Al-Kateab and Natasegara have had unprecedented access to the IOC Refugee Olympic Team before, during and after the 2020 Games where the award-winning filmmakers are currently on the ground. The team consists of 29 athletes competing in Tokyo, originating from 11 countries, and residing in 13 host nations.

'I am so honored to have the opportunity to capture the stories of these inspirational athletes on their way to competing at the biggest sports event in the world,' said Waad Al-Kateab. 'So much of their experience I recognize in my own journey as a refugee and I feel very committed to representing their heart, determination and resilience in a way that they deserve. Despite the hardship for anyone leaving their homeland behind, the Refugee Olympic Team stories are a moving combination of ambition, joy and challenges.'

'It's a thrill to be working with this team on this film,' said Joanna Natasegara. 'The Refugee Olympic Team is a rich and diverse group showing off the best of humanity's traits. Their journeys to date have been challenging both in life as well as on the road to Tokyo and we feel privileged to have had the opportunity to live through this period with them. Through Waad's unique vision and leadership and our truly unique access, we endeavour to create a very special portrait of these world-class athletes at an amazing point in their lives.'

'Our hope for this documentary is to shed light on the global refugee crisis through the lens of these talented athletes who have continued to show immense bravery and strength no matter their circumstances,' said Bryn Mooser, CEO of XTR. 'We are honored to support Waad to tell the stories of these amazing athletes and her perspective on their survival and perseverance is deeply personal and profound.'

'Global refugee relief and protection is a crucial issue and one that is very important to me,' said Joe Gebbia. 'Being able to tell this revolutionary story to show the struggles of these triumphant and incredible athletes conquering one of the greatest human feats, is an honor. Their experiences deserve to be shared with the world at large.'

Flag bearers Yusra Mardini and Tachlowini Gabriyesos of The Refugee Olympic Team during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

About Waad Al-Kateab

Al-Kateab began her career as a self-taught citizen journalist, documenting the horrors she faced while living in Syria. Her series of reports ‘Inside Aleppo' for the UK's Channel 4 News received almost half a billion views online and won 24 awards. Her 2019 film For Sama, produced by Al-Kateab and Channel 4 News, and Executive Produced by Nevine Mabro, was nominated for an Academy Award®, won the L'Œil d'or (the top documentary prize) at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, receiving a six-minute standing ovation. For Sama became the most nominated documentary in BAFTA's history with four nominations, ultimately winning the BAFTA Award for Best Documentary. Her advocacy campaign, Action For Sama, focuses on raising awareness about the conflicts in Syria and seeks accountability for the war crimes committed by the Syrian and Russian regimes.

About Joanna Natasegara

Joanna Natasegara is an Academy Award® winning film producer and Founder of Violet Films, the London-based production company. Her productions have received over 100 award nominations and 64 wins, including one BAFTA, two BIFA, three Oscar® and five Emmy nominations; as well as two Peabody Awards. Joanna's films include the Netflix Originals: Oscar®-winning The White Helmets (2016), BAFTA and Oscar®-nominated Virunga (2014), and the Oscar®-nominated The Edge Of Democracy (2019); as well as the BIFA winning Evelyn (2018) for BBC Films and BFI, and Emmy-winning The Nightcrawlers (2020) for National Geographic. Joanna is now producing a highly anticipated slate of projects with social justice at their heart including The Heart of Invictus with Archewell Productions and the upcoming adaptation of Virunga, written by Academy Award®-winner Barry Jenkins, with Appian Way, both for Netflix.

About Joe Gebbia

Joe Gebbia is the co-founder of Airbnb. An entrepreneur from an early age, he is obsessed with igniting new ideas. Currently, he serves on the boards of Airbnb, and, the non-profit arm he helped initiate to provide housing in times of crisis. Joe has spoken globally about both entrepreneurship and design, and received numerous distinctions such as the Inc 30 under 30, and speaking at TED, Wired and the Clinton Global Initiative. Airbnb was selected as one of the ‘Top 50 Innovative Companies' by Fast Company and ‘Company of the Year' by Inc.

About XTR

XTR is the leading premium nonfiction film and television studio in America. Fueled by the documentary revolution, XTR is fostering a community of nonfiction filmmakers and ensuring their stories are heard by a new wave of audiences. Founded by two-time Oscar nominee Bryn Mooser, XTR is led by an award-winning executive team who share the common goal of cultivating the best talent, supporting amazing filmmakers, and giving them the resources they need to tell their stories. The studio provides a full suite of services including financing, development, production and distribution. Since its inception in 2019, XTR has produced and financed over 50 documentary features and series. XTR's current slate includes titles such as the Neon acquisition AILEY, which premiered in theaters nationwide on July 23, HOMEROOM, which was acquired by Hulu and executive produced by Ryan Coogler, and REBEL HEARTS, which was the first premium nonfiction acquisition from Discovery+. In 2021, XTR launched the platform DOCUMENTARY+, the preeminent global streaming service for documentary films and series. DOCUMENTARY+ boasts a highly curated library of over 200 nonfiction titles. DOCUMENTARY+ is available free worldwide on all streaming platforms including Apple TV, Amazon and Roku, mobile devices and To learn more about XTR, visit

About the IOC Refugee Olympic Team

At the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in October 2015, confronted with the global refugee crisis that has seen millions of people in the world displaced, IOC President Thomas Bach announced the creation of the Refugee Olympic Team - the first of its kind - to take part in the Olympic Games Rio 2016.

Working with the National Olympic Committees (NOCs), the IOC identified refugee athletes around the world and through Olympic Solidarity provided them with the necessary support and funding to assist them in their qualification efforts.

Ten months on from the announcement, 10 athletes, who originally hailed from Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were competing alongside 11,000 fellow athletes in Rio, sending a message of hope and inclusion to millions of refugees, and inspiring the world with the strength of their human spirit.

In October 2018, the IOC Session decided that there would be a Refugee Olympic Team for Tokyo 2020. Olympic Solidarity was tasked with establishing the conditions of participation and defining the selection process for the team, in close collaboration with UNHCR, NOCs, International Sports Federations (IFs) and the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee.

Through this programme, Olympic Solidarity helps refugee athletes not only to train with the aim of qualifying for the Olympic Games, but also to continue their sporting career and build their future.

The IOC Refugee Olympic Team are:

Abdullah Sediqi, Taekwondo (-68kg)

Ahmad Badreddin Wais, Cycling (time trial)

Aker Al Obaidi, Wrestling (Greco-Roman -67kg)

Alaa Maso, Swimming (freestyle 50m)

Anjelina Nadai Lohalith, Athletics (1500m)

Aram Mahmoud, Badminton (Singles)

Cyrille Fagat Tchatchet II, Weightlifting (-96kg)

Dina Pouryounes Langeroudi, Taekwondo (-49kg)

Dorian Kelatela, Athletics (100m)

Eldric Sella Rodriguez, Boxing (-75kg)

Hamoon Derafshi Pour, Karate (-67kg)

Jamal Abdelmaji Eisa Mohammed, Athletics (5000m)

James Nyak Chiengjiek, Athletics (400m)

Kimia Alizadeh, Taekwondo (57kg)

Luna Solomon, Shooting (air rifle 10m)

Masomah Ali Zada, Cycling (time trial)

Paulo Amotun Lokoro, Athletics (1500m)

Popole Misenga, Judo (-90kg and mixed team)

Rose Likonyen Nathike, Athletics (800m)

Saeid Fazloula, Canoeing (500m)

Sanda Aldass, Judo (-57kg)

Tachlowini Gabriyesos, Athletics (Marathon)

Wael Shueb, Karate (Kata)

Wessam Salamana, Boxing (-57kg)

Yusra Mardini, Swimming (100m butterfly and freestyle)

CONTACT: PR contact for XTR:


View source version on

More Oklahoma City News

Access More

Sign up for Oklahoma City News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!