FOR SAMA – Documentary Review

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For Sama a harrowing first person documentary in which the filmmaker, Waad Al-Khateab, a Syrian woman journalist, chronicles her daily life and struggles to survive during the Battle of Aleppo.

At the beginning of the film, Waad states that she is making the film for her daughter, Sama, who was conceived and born during the five-year siege that destroyed her home town. The film is intended, she says, to let Sama know who her parents were, what they believed in and why they joined the rebels who were fighting for freedom from the repressive regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Co-directed by Edward Watts, the film documents Waad’s professional commitment and personal life — considering them as equally weighty in the unfolding drama. Waad chronicles her work using the footage she’s accumulated while filming students posting political, photographing protest marches, fearlessly recording the mass burials of slain rebels and shooting through the billowing dust and flying debris produced by incessant bombings. She memorializes friends and comrades killed in action or randomly. She also records intimate moments in her personal life — her marriage to Hamze, a doctor dedicated to treating the wounded in the bombed out hospital where they live, the birth of Sama and their familial struggle for survival. More than once, Sama is seen as an innocent amidst the chaos and devastation caused by the ongoing siege,as Waad and other mothers wonder whether they’ve done the right thing to bring their babies into this war-torn world.

If you need convincing that war is hell, this film will do it for you. It also is a compelling look at war from the perspective of a woman freedom fighter, a loving wife and mother. Several times during the film, Waad and her female colleagues ruminate about the wisdom of giving birth in a world where their survival and happiness is so unsure. A serious question contemplated by many.

For Sama is not an easy film to watch. It is a reality-based horror film. It is a truly painful and shameful reminder that we humans create unbearable hardship and agony for each other, and For Sama effectively brings that to our awareness in such a way that demands change. For Sama is absolutely essential viewing.

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