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Director: Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts
2019, UK, 93 minutes, Digital, NR
Language: Arabic with English subtitles
This film should be required viewing for every living person who has existed comfortably outside the pernicious effects of armed conflict. For any of us afforded the luxury to go about our day-to-day lives in relative safety, it’s hard to fathom the violence and perilous insecurity many areas of the world experience daily—unless we actively engage with the stories of those who have survived.
Citizen journalist and documentarian Waad Al-Kateab has lived through and witnessed atrocities that many of us cannot begin to imagine. As a student at the University of Aleppo she became swept up in the revolt against the Russian-backed Assad regime in 2011. During Aleppo’s darkest days of violence, as the Assad government repeatedly displayed their willingness to stoop to any depth of depravity—even decimating their own people—to maintain their fragile grip on power, Al-Kateab kept her cameras rolling. Through these grim years, Al-Kateab refuses to put her life on hold. She meets a young doctor and in the midst of daily bombings, the two find themselves operating a makeshift hospital to tend to the wounded, and even falling in love. As the wartorn months progress, the two find the will to get married and give birth to a beautiful and healthy daughter, Sama, who quickly becomes their raison d’etre. Al-Kateab and her family display a defiant will to live that propels them, as they face the heinous, near-daily assaults of Assad’s minions.
For Sama is a film that does not shy away from capturing the most hideous aspects of war, at times making this one of the most difficult viewing experiences this seasoned programmer has ever had. Ultimately though, it is a story that must be seen and what emerges from the rubble of this awful, senseless carnage is an incredible affirmation of life. Al-Kateab shows us that even in the face of the most heinous and inhuman of circumstances, the drive to motherhood, to liberty, and to self-determination can and will triumph. This love letter from a mother to her infant daughter—sharing the family’s struggle for freedom and will to survive under the most perilous of conditions—vividly affirms that even in the most terrible destruction, there is no greater force than love. (Scott Braid)
OFFICIAL SELECTION South by Southwest Cannes Film Festival Maryland Film Festival
AWARDS Grand Jury Award, Documentary Feature South by Southwest Audience Award, Documentary Feature South by Southwest