Recently, I’ve felt like I have been consuming so much mindless television that my brain has started to turn to mush. So, in an attempt to rectify this I decided to watch something a little different. I began searching for something more meaningful that would inform and educate me, and after choosing BAFTA winning and Oscar nominated documentary For Sama (2019), I can safely say that this is one of the most powerful pieces of film I have ever watched in my life.
I hope that as this film circulates in the years to come, we as a species are emboldened to take steps to ensure that such atrocities never happen again
This documentary film offers a unique insight into the life of brave young woman Waad al-Kateab and her daughter Sama, and their experiences suffering through the atrocities of the Assad regime and uprising in Aleppo over a five year period. Through the lens of a single camcorder, we witness the heart wrenching stories of those who decided to stay and resist rather than flee their beloved city. Throughout the film, audiences are able to follow the tumultuous reality that Waad experienced, as she fell in love, got married and gave birth to her beloved Sama, all while the chaos outside decimated the people that she loves and the city that she calls home.
The footage used in this documentary was taken from that which Waad produced, completely self-taught, when she began documenting her life in Aleppo for Channel 4 news. It is through her eyes that we experience this emotion-fuelled epic and see that beneath the laughter and the spirit of survival – this is a community wrestling with a terrible choice. To decide whether they leave their beloved homes to protect their children, or whether to stay and struggle on, helping-out in the makeshift hospitals and saving their kin from the horrors of the relentless air strikes.
This is a reality faced by thousands in Syria, that is still ongoing today
The film paints a picture of a community that dedicates itself to helping those in need, particularly Waad’s husband Hamza, who would often perform over a hundred surgeries a day for the injured and displaced of their neighbourhood. Having been swept along on this journey with them, I was completely humbled by this display of sheer humanity and unwavering generosity towards the people and families that came through their hospital every day, as well as the strength of their determination to not back down in the face such a dangerous threat.
Although hard to watch at times, this is a film that everyone should see. The struggles faced by Syrians is something we used to see in the news everyday, but I feel like in recent years it has somewhat been forgotten or pushed to the bottom of the pile in mainstream media – something which needs to change. What Waad captured on her camcorder was utterly heart-breaking, and is made all the more distressing by the fact that this is a reality faced by thousands in Syria, that is still ongoing today.
This year, the conflict in Syria will have been going for 10 years. That’s right, 10 years. What’s more, is that the war has killed 500,000 people and displaced an estimated 13 million. These shocking statistics may understandably come as a surprise, most likely due to COVID dominating media outlets in recent months. However, this is another reason in itself why the Syrian crisis is all the more prevalent today. Being a refugee in a pandemic must be unfathomably difficult, and they all deserve to have their voices heard and their stories told, like they did in For Sama.
Ultimately, there is no doubt about the fact that this is a story that everybody needs to witness for themselves, and I’m not at all surprised that it not only won 2 BAFTAs, but that it was also nominated for best documentary feature at the Academy Awards. Furthermore, since the release of the film Waad al-Kateab had launched Action for Sama, which is a campaign through which she hopes to raise awareness for the continued targeting of Syrian healthcare facilities.
It is through Waad’s inspirational story, that we can not only witness what it was really like to live through this, but also see what really happened. Therefore, I hope that as this film circulates in the years to come, we as a species are emboldened to take steps to ensure that such atrocities never happen again.
Video courtesy of FRONTLINE PBS | Official via YouTube.
In-article image courtesy of @actionforsama via Instagram. No changes made to this image.
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