FOR SAMA – Review by Susan Wlosczcyna

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Never mind all those so-called superheroes that have dominated movie screens for the past two decades. Now is not the time for escapist fantasies. For Sama is the reality wake-up call we as a country desperately need right now, one that shows what happens to a society when corruption, injustice and oppression goes unchecked. Is this a political documentary? Yes, as a young and engaging female Syrian university student, Waad al-Kateab decided to chronicle on camera the uprising of the Aleppo citizenry against a cruel self-serving regime and the resulting horrifying devastation when Russia and Syrian leaders terrorized the community with constant terrorist bombings by air and on the ground.

But the film’s emotional pull and clear-eyed perception in its “you-are-there” intimacy as we follow journalist Waad and her humanist hero husband, Dr. Hamza, as they fall in love while they and others continue to work in an increasingly rubble-filled hospital. They refuse to leave the city and its people even after she becomes pregnant and decide to stand their ground, aided by dedicated colleagues who refuse to give up. She initially wants to film what is happening so her adorable newborn daughter, Sama, can see what their lives were like as their homeland was turned into a war zone after she came along. But For Sama is more than that. It is an inspiring gift to world, re-affirming the strength we have as humans who refuse to collapse before those who wish to destroy our common customs and the bonds that feed our souls. To see up close the indecency of a pile of dead bodies being randomly tossed into a makeshift landfill or observing a grieving mother as she embraces the lifeless body of her son as she walks down the street makes the human tragedy unfolding before us quite universal.

There is one scene involving a just-injured woman on the verge of giving birth whose son must be born by Caesarean section. It is as tense and anxiety-inducing as any battle scene in a war epic. The release you will feel once it is over is a feeling that will stay with you hours later. For Sama has already won standing ovations and a top prize at Cannes. May it win all the prizes and get the wide viewing it deserves. Now this is a true superhero movie.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For Sama is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for July 26, 2019

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a senior editor for the online awards site Gold Derby. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.