‘For Sama’

A raw, uncompromising and deeply personal documentary, For Sama, five years in the making, is the story of rebellion and civil war.

Journalist Waad al-Kateab, living in the city of Aleppo, the largest in Syria, films the beginnings of protests against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Five years later, in 2016, she flees her home with husband and young daughter, Sama, with most of eastern Aleppo destroyed by government missiles, supported by the Russians. Waad filmed the horrors of those five years.

With her husband, Hamza, a doctor and surgeon, they operate an illicit hospital initially for those injured in the protests. But as the hospitals in the area become targets, soon they are supplying the only medical facility in the area. Reliant on generators, bottled water, smuggled medical equipment and a host of volunteers, they struggle valiantly on.

Harrowing, challenging and deeply moving, Waad blends news reportage with intimate personal testimony. Scenes from the aftermath of the latest missile attacks are juxtaposed with family life, both hers and friends and neighbours. Seen from a female perspective, she choses to focus on how conflict affects families, and, in particular, the innocence of children. Heartbreaking.

Nominated for Best Documentary Oscar in 2020.

Rating: 80%