For Sama (2019)

While many documentaries have been made about the Syrian conflict, there’s nothing like For Sama, its power, loyalty to the truth, and strong journalistic instincts to efficiently send its message.

Waad Al-Kateab was just eighteen when she first documented the civil war in her hometown Aleppo. A group of college students vandalizes the school’s wall in protest about the change about to happen. While these people, like Waad, is brimming with their youthful rage and optimism, the documentary is not about hope.

For Sama, through the eyes of a mother, documents a community’s slow submission to its tragedies. It’s a terrifying film that goes to the underbelly of a town being destroyed piece by piece – a period where revolutions are out of the picture, death toll rapidly increases, and peace is measured in the minutes passing by without a sound of an explosion.

Waad was not scared enough to show the entire scope of the war in Aleppo. The documentary presents footage after footage of children being brought to the hospital because of bomb explosions. A hand was torn off. Entire faces covered by ash. The immediate loss of innocence due to trauma. For Sama, in this regard alone, is an uneasy watch. When Waad first uploaded the footage she has shown for this documentary on social media and other news outlets, the heartbreak in her eyes desperately waiting for any type of change to come is very affecting.

As the title implies, For Sama is dedicated to Waad’s daughter Sama. Apart from its honest showcase of the Aleppo war, the documentary is mostly comprised of Waad’s life from the past four years – being a young adult, meeting friends, falling in love, being excited over a new house, up to the first pregnancy.

For Sama is pure about its intentions. It is a heart-wrenching portrait of a mother opening up her daughter about the world – a declaration of one’s immeasurable love.

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