Nearly two years after Beyond the Raging Sea received a standing ovation at its El Gouna Film Festival world premiere, the documentary about two Egyptian adventurers attempting to row across the Atlantic is being released in Egypt and UAE cinemas.
The film, which hits screens on Thursday, follows the harrowing story of Omar Samra and Omar Nour, Team 02, as they take on the Atlantic Challenge, an unsupported 4,800-kilometre open ocean race from the Canary Islands to Antigua.
Their principal goal when they made the journey in December 2017 was to raise awareness of the plight of refugees who risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea.
“The other goal was to cross the ocean, but that never materialised. And we were left with something potentially more powerful,” Samra, 43, tells The National.
Samra is not one to shy away from adventure; he was the first Egyptian to climb Mount Everest, to reach the summit of the highest mountain of each continent, and to ski to the North and South Poles.
He is also a motivational speaker, a UN Goodwill Ambassador, future astronaut and founder of adventure travel company Wild Guanabana.
Omar Nour, 42, is a triathlete who trained to represent Egypt at the 2016 Olympics, but ended his bid because of an injury.
“We’re adventurers and athletes and so on, but the ocean was never our domain,” Samra says.
After more than a year of intense training, Team 02 set out on their high-profile endeavour in collaboration with DHL, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the UN Development Programme.
Eight days into their journey, the pair found themselves fighting for their lives as their seven-metre-long, two-metre-wide boat capsized.
“We’re lucky to have survived,” Samra says. “That’s an experience that you need to hold on to and hopefully use in a good way going forward.”
Upon the pair’s return in January 2018, Samra was approached by director Marco Orsini, who felt strongly about sharing their story on the big screen.
Orsini is the founder and president of the International Emerging Film Talent Association, a non-governmental organisation in Monaco that supports film-related creativity in developing countries.
The film was shown at Cannes in May 2018 as a work in progress, which helped to mobilise funding.
In 2019, it premiered at El Gouna Film Festival, on Egypt’s Red Sea coast, and was screened at the Cairo International Film Festival, garnering positive reviews.
The IEFTA secured a deal with Arab marketing and distribution company Mad Solutions and Vox Cinemas in February 2020 for a wide theatrical release across the Mena region.
The release was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, until now, but Samra hopes that releases in other countries in the region and around the world will soon follow.
With the pandemic dominating headlines, he says the timing is apt to make sure the global refugee crisis is not forgotten.
The documentary juxtaposes the pair’s ordeal with recollections of refugees crossing the Mediterranean, including a Syrian man and a youth from Africa.
“It is even a more important time for the movie to come out," says Samra. "We hope it will play a part in redirecting some of the discourse and narrative to the issue, and help people see it in a different light.”