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For Sama - Film Review

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Published January 26th 2020
A rare firsthand account of war as never before
for sama, film review, documentary review 2020, community event, movie review, cinema, fun things to do, true story, subtitled film, foreign film, waad al-kateab, edwards watts, night life, date night, night out, entertainment, war of the worlds, performing arts
Images Channel 4 News, Frontline, ITN Productions et al

For Sama became an intimate, first hand account; a record from a 26 year old Syrian mother to her daughter Sama, in case she didn't survive. However, Director, Producer and Camerawoman Waad al-Kateab started filming long before she became a mother and managed to produce some of the most memorable images of the six-year conflict in Syria, recording the last days of the battle for Aleppo. Like hundreds of her fellow Syrians, she became a citizen journalist determined to document the horrors of the war, never dreaming of the journey her footage would take her.

You will see scenes filmed from a vantage point no other journalist could get to at the time when protests were ongoing against the brutal dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad who is still the President of Syria today. This story has far from ended.

Co-directing with Director Edward Watts was a marriage made in heaven. Watts had been following the Syrian uprising since it began, trying to tell the truth beyond the lies and propaganda that have left people in a state of confusion as to what was happening in Syria. An Emmy award-winning, BAFTA-nominated filmmaker who has directed over 20 narrative and documentary films that tell true stories of courage, heroism and humour from across the world, his filmmaking aspires to tell visceral, gripping stories to emphasise our common humanity. He has an eye for the unexpected: the intimacy found even in the bleakest places; the stories of hope and horror.

Waad al-Kateab's story is not without a smattering of humour amongst memorable images of human suffering around her as Assad forces battled rebels for control of Aleppo. She stayed through the devastating siege, documenting the terrible loss of life until her family was evacuated from Aleppo in December 2016; managing to get all her footage out. Waad now lives in London with her husband Hamza and her two daughters.

Knowing the end does not prevent you from going through the strong emotional responses you will have to this documentary of the most complex humanitarian crisis in the world. It has won 24 awards, including the 2016 International Emmy for breaking news coverage. However, that's not what is going to be uppermost in your mind as you watch hope and optimism of the early days to almost unimaginable darkness as the regime and its allies resort to every imaginable atrocity to crush the rebels, leaving citizens and children dead and suffering in its wake.

Sama's first year of life will see the last year of the battle for the city. Her story begins when her parents; Waad, a student studying marketing at Aleppo University and Hamza, a doctor in the last surviving hospital in rebel-held Aleppo marry in the midst of the storm. Surrounded on all sides and bombarded daily by the Syrian regime and Russian air force, Waad sets out to explain to her one-year-old daughter who her parents were, what they were fighting for and why Sama came into this world.

We hear bad news of wars, killings, murders, fires, sufferings and such like on a daily basis; yet we go on with our lives, untouched by news we are far removed from. This documentary takes you right into the midst of real human beings living on tenterhooks, many times without food, water, medical assistance or any help and buried in bodies of family and friends that have been cut down by cluster bombs and such like.

Yet the spirit of human hope peeps through, the strength of community, friendship and family doing all they can in a time so harsh there's no time to mourn. Scared children, facing death, loss and dismemberment at an age when they shouldn't. This is a must-see first feature documentary by both the Emmy award-winning filmmakers that'll put you in the heart of the crisis as never before. Finally, the world can see what really happened and hopefully ensures it never happens again.

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Why? For Sama (2019) - Documentary Review 2020
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