Twenty-six year old Syrian journalist Waad al-Kateab discovers that political choices can have life-altering consequences as her daily existence in Aleppo is disrupted when she joins a rebellion in search of freedom. Food becomes scarce, friends are killed, families struggle to escape the carnage, hospitals are bombed, and when Islamic extremists take over the rebellion, women are forced to cover themselves from head to toe. Told from a female perspective, Waad’s intimate and compelling video diary, For Sama, is intended as a love letter to her young daughter, Sama. It offers a rare look at Waad’s life during five years of uprising in Aleppo as old lives are swept away and a rebellion once portrayed as a civil war evolves into a Western-backed regime change operation. Waad falls in love, marries a doctor who is also a media activist, and gives birth to Sama amidst an escalating conflict which she documents daily with her camera. Clearly, this is no place to raise a child.
The siege of Aleppo is a complicated story, and the film’s portrayal of loss and death is heart wrenching. However, the audience is only shown a limited view of one side of the horrific conflict. For example, we never see the al-Qaeda terrorists’ indiscriminate shelling of neighborhoods in the government-controlled areas of Aleppo on a daily basis which kills innocent civilians including children where they live, work and play. Nor are we shown how al-Qaeda exploits the hospitals by transforming them into military command and control centers which invalidates the special protection they would normally enjoy under international law and makes them legitimate targets for the Syrian government and their Russian allies.
For Sama is a harrowing first-hand account of war that’s hard to watch but is well worth the viewing as long as you are aware there’s a lot more to this war story than meets the eye.