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Syrian documentary For Sama sweeps film awards season

Syrian filmmaker and activist Waad Al-Kateab’s complex recount of the Syrian revolution through the female lense earned the best documentary award at the 73rd British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA).

For Sama, Al-Kateab’s first feature film, navigates us through the uprising of the Syrian revolution, the siege of her hometown Aleppo and the devastating airstrikes, all while preserving the tenderness of love and motherhood.

The unbreakable bond with her daughter Sama seeps through the narrative, accomplishing the ambitious task of transforming a war documentary into an intimate love letter to her child.

The audience is let into five tumultuous years of her life, starting as al-Kateab filmed the student protests against Bashar al-Assad in 2012 and kept the tape rolling during the siege of Aleppo. In parallel, she falls in love, gets married and births Sama, persisting in her arduous to fight for their freedom and safety through the war.

 

Racking up the nominations

The powerful juxtaposition of experiences captured has rightfully made it the most nominated feature documentary in history, with its four nominations as Film Not in English Language, Outstanding British Film, Outstanding Debut, and Best Documentary.

Prior to the BAFTA awards, For Sama earned the L’Œil d’Or for Best Documentary at the Cannes Film Festival 2019, in addition to sweeping over 50 other awards worldwide. The Times described the film to be “one of the most important documentaries you’ll ever see”.

Why all of this recognition matters…

When accepting the award, Al-Kateab’s convictions became even clearer: “This award I will dedicate it to the great Syrian people who (are) still suffering until today and (the) great heroes of doctors, nurses, civil defense.”