Best Documentary

For Sama – Film Review

For Sama – Film Review
by Frank L

Directed by Waad Al-Khateab and Edward Watts

Al-Khateab is a photographer who in 2012 lived in Aleppo in Syria. She supported the endeavours of the groups who sought to bring about a regime change in her country as part of the Arab Spring. Early on in the conflict she fell in love with and married a charismatic young doctor, Hamza, who actively supports the efforts of those seeking to overthrow the government of Bashir Assad.  As their relationship intensifies so does the violence of the governmental forces, assisted by the Russian airforce. This is the background to the film which Al-Khateeab has created to try to explain to her daughter, Sama, born during the violent conflict, why she and Hamza made the decisions that they did.

She sees the conflict through the perspective of a young mother and the wife of a young doctor whose daily task is to try to treat the ever increasing casualties of the air raids. It is heart rending stuff. Particularly as you see live footage of friends and colleagues who are later killed in an air attack. But in the midst of the horror she also shows friends who still try to make daily life tolerable with one particular friend showing an extraordinary ability to keep laughter to the fore. She also has an ability to express infectious joy when presented with a fresh, albeit unripe, persimmon. She comes across as a very impressive person!

Al Khateab’s contemporary footage brings to grim life the horrors that surrounded Sama as a toddler. It is, at times, a hard film to watch as it pulls no punches. Heartbreaking decisions have to be made by Al Khateab and Hamza and they are made. It is also intensely personal as it was created for Sama. It is an outstanding contribution to an understanding of the horrors a civilian population endures while living in a warzone. A documentary which is entitled to all the praise that it is given.

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