Syrian war and its ongoing trauma have wrenched the hearts of world through its news and photographs. Yet the power of a personalized story, reflecting a female life in transition from a student to married life and as a parent during the peak of war has touched the heart in whole another level. “For Sama” is the documentary shown in Special Screenings in Cannes film festival 2019, which has caught million hearts. The film tells the story of Waad-al-Kateab’s life through the uprising of Syrian conflict, starting from 2012 in Aleppo during the conflict reinforced by the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his allies.
The film is directed by Emmy award winning filmmakers Waad-Al-Kateab (also the protagonist) and Edward Watts that harrowingly depicts the life of Waad-Al Kateab transitioning during the war period. The film, rather a compilation of footages and clips recorded from video camera and phone, takes the viewer through the journey of a student grown into the roles of a wife and mother through different phases of the war.
Starting with the rueful confession of the mother “What a life I’ve brought you into” to her daughter as the footage of explosion in the hospital where Al-Kateab is raising her daughter, the movie takes us back to 2012- Kateab as a marketing student participating in protests again al-Assad’s regime. The movie is not the one careful about choosing violent scenes, rather depicts the horrifying reality as we can see the gruesome scenes of civilians being tortured and bringing into mass graves, many civilians moving out of the country. As the war up rises, Kateab however chooses to stay and meet Hamza, her husband in the course of volunteering in a hospital.
The film drives us through series of micro level life events in the narrator’s life as she and her husband navigate life through the crisis. Scenes like bringing a seemingly still-born child to life during cesarean delivery, dilemma faced by parents to stay in the city despite the danger to their children lives including the rare built moments of happiness as the couple celebrate their anniversary and make a home amidst the consuming chaos makes the film most powerful. Moments when constant bombarding seems day-to-day event makes the viewer feel awfully sad on the despairs of Syrian civilians. The movie shows how individuals full of dream and hopes loose themselves and live each moment fighting the terror. The film clearly portrays the fly-or-die situations for the families and how Al-Kateab with her husband and child Sama had to take that decision. The director currently resides safely in London and works for Channel 4.
For SAMA is an intimate journey into the female experience of war that has been widely acclaimed post its screening. Rated 100% by Rotten tomatoes and 8.7/10 by IMDB, it has been premiered earlier in March at the South by Southwest Film Festival and also screened earlier in May at the Hot Docs festival in Canada, being one of the rare Cannes films to not premiere on the Croisette. It has been enlisted as one of the notable nonfiction films, along with Feras Fayyad’s “Last Men in Aleppo,” Evgeny Afineevsky’s “Cries From Syria,” Matthew Heineman’s “City of Ghosts,” Talal Derki’s “The Return to Homs” and Sebastian Junger’s “Hell on Earth” in the feature realm, as well as the Oscar-nominated short docs “The White Helmets” (which won) and “Watani: My Homeland.”