Dir. Waad al-Kateab, Edmund Watts, UK, 2019, 119 min, Cert 15A
Seeing ‘For Sama’on the big screen, brings the horror of the Syrian conflict into ones conciousness in a very visceral manner. The documentary itself is addressed and dedicated to a child – director Waad’s daughter, Sama – whom we first meet as smoke fills the corridors of the hospital in which she lives, while her mother cries: “Who’s got my girl? Where’s my girl?”
This is Syria in 2016, with the Assad regime, supported by the Russian air force, indiscriminately pummelling Aleppo, hitting houses and hospitals alike.
Waad moved here as a student several years earlier, full of hope for change. A handsome medic Hamza, shares her passion and declares his love for Waad, even as the violence around them escalates. The couple marry against the incessant backdrop of the conflict, celebrating with songs “louder than bombs”. While Hamza and his colleagues tend to the increasing casualties, Waad films their lives and struggles, a process that “gives me a reason to be here”, even after the birth of Sama, for whom this documentary is ultimately intended as both a “love letter” and an explanation.
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For Sama powerfully mixes the personal and the political to thought-provoking, emotional ends. The result is one of the best documentaries of 2019 Empire