2011 is the year where everything changes in the life of marketing student, Waad al-Kateab. As the Syrian city of Aleppo rejects the rule of Syrian President Assad and Waad falls in love, later giving birth to her first daughter Sama, the city falls under violent siege from Assad’s Russian backed forces.
… surrender yourself to a level of intimacy that will almost be unbearable as it pierces your indifference forever.
With rockets and bombs relentlessly raining down on the city of Aleppo, life becomes increasingly impossible for Waad and her hospital doctor husband. Do they run and protect their daughter or do they stay behind and help the innocents caught in the crosshairs of war?
In what becomes a singularly-affecting document of a life lived behind a misunderstood headline, Waad picks up a video camera and starts to record those around her so that maybe one day her daughter might understand the decision her parents make…
To say that ‘ For Sama’ is as harrowing as it is vital is an understatement. With its first-hand account documentary style where Waad narrates every decision, turning point and set back, this is an intrinsically personal story that transcends its solitary intended audience. Moving backwards and forwards in a clear, articulated style, the green shoots of Aleppo’s rebellion are crushed beneath the monotony of murder and the city is steadily desiccated by rocket-fire.
In what amounts to a lethal lottery, Waad’s husband Hamza is on the front line when it comes to preserving life in Aleppo. As each of the city’s hospitals fall, Hamza most must tend to an escalating number of victims. Mothers scream at dead children to wake up, hospital staff perversely warm themselves against the very bomb casings that were sent to kill them and nowhere in the hospital’s blood-caked corridors is there a reason to stay, let alone bring up a baby… and this is where ‘For Sama’ is different.
In many other documentaries, there is a distance, a reassuring presence of artifice, of talking heads, of a narrator safely dislocated from the dying. ‘For Sama’ has none of that. As a first-hand document intended solely for a child, this is an unvarnished testimony of a city under siege and the atrocities visited upon its population.
Open your heart to ‘For Sama’ and surrender yourself to a level of intimacy that will almost be unbearable as it pierces your indifference forever.