Waad, the film’s narrator, tells her life story during the five years of uprising in Aleppo, and the siege which forced her to experience the destruction of her home city in For Sama.
Her film captures many stories, from the catastrophic tragedies of war to the beautiful love story which led to her marriage and raising her newborn, Sama, into an apocalyptic reality.
Filmed almost entirely through the lens of her home camera, Waad is a journalist documenting the uprising and destruction of Aleppo, as she falls in love with Hamza, who plays a crucial role in the struggle and survival of the Syrian people. Hamza is a doctor who has been seen helping injured citizens since the beginning of the events in the film. He then becomes the voice of Aleppo in the media as it tries to survive constant Russian airstrikes, with thousands of victims going through his makeshift hospital. As for Sama, she is brought into the world just before the siege and tries to experience an innocent childhood with the sounds of bombs and airstrikes constantly in the background.
The film poses a question to those in the world with horrendous powers of igniting war: How do you expect to raise a child, who has nothing to do with your politics or conflicts, in the midst of a chaotic civil war?
While this documentary film should not be seen by the faint-hearted due to its extremely graphic and real depiction of the atrocities of war, For Sama constantly shines a light to how the people of Aleppo keep finding ways to express any kind of positivity and strength in what feels like their inevitable doom. Love, childhood, revolution, festivities, education, and family gatherings – life tries its absolute best to keep on going, which leaves you as a viewer smiling in the midst of all your tears. This idea of finding positivity when your world is ending sends a powerful message to all of the people struggling out there under the horrific circumstances of war.
Shot as a documentary, Ed Watts and Waad Al-Kateab transform all of their footage to tell a beautiful narrative of how this family tries to survive the destruction of Aleppo while raising baby Sama, with Waad narrating to her daughter in the tone of a love letter or time capsule. The music and editing of the film is very moving, with extremely graphic scenes which are not shied away from, to show a reality many viewers tend to avoid. For Sama is definitely worth watching for those of you who feel connected to the region, or are willing to experience the traumas of war from the perspective of a very strong-hearted Syrian couple.
The word “Sama,” for whom the film is named, means “Sky” in Arabic.