The 92nd Academy awards heaped praise on Parasite the South Korean film that could, winning four Oscars including Best Picture and Foreign Feature in a landmark of cross-category success. However, a documentary from Waad Al-Kateab a Syrian journalist and filmmaker addressed to her child amid the Siege of Aleppo, should be remembered as one of the greatest films ever made.
For Sama documents the Syrian revolution from the early days of the Aleppo university protests to bombings of civilian targets and to Waad’s exile, in order to explain to her daughter Sama why they made the choice to raise her amid a devastating war.
We see how everyday life can unfold in a warzone from Waad’s intimate and beautiful wedding ceremony, her pregnancy and birth of their first child Sama to the death of close friends, massacred protestors and a devastating campaign against hospitals and residences, by bombings and by siege.
The intimacy on screen provided an experience like no other filmmaker could. Waad captures beautiful moments hidden within a devastating war that I had only seen through the eyes of journalists and news screens, statistics and casualty reports. Now I know what the ‘normal’ looked like during the siege. Schools, hospitals and day-care were all volunteered for by free Syrians as they set up their own free country inside the siege, funeral marches and protests full of mourning and joy, singing and dancing all shown in its full glory.
Children were growing up in the shadow of barrel bombs and shelling, being asked what they should do when they hear warplanes. Painting bombed out buses making them as beautiful as they can be, as the siege carries on the children have less and less friends either fleeing or being murdered by Russia and Assad’s warplanes.
Sama is one of these children and the most intimate and beautiful moments come from her life but also some of the darkest as Waad admits during the darkest days of the siege that she sometimes despairs at having brought her into this world. She tells the audience she named Sama because she wanted to make a promise of skies without warplanes. There are moments in this film which will make you cry, laugh and fill with rage all at once, it is no mere documentary, it is life itself.
Watching this film is a privilege unlike any other to watch these people be courageous and brave even if at any moment their houses might collapse on top of them, to continue to treat patients as Hamza did or to continue to document these horrors even though it put a target on their back.
To be witness to the horrors like the blood-stained hospital floors and the wailing of a mother who lost her son. This film captures something I gladly will never experience and informs the world the sacrifice these people went through in order to fight for freedom. It is truly revolutionary as it will forever be a stand against men like Assad, Putin and their allies as it shows their crimes to the world.
Waad and Hamza attended the Oscars ceremony in what should be remembered as one of the most heart-warming stories of the 92nd academy awards. If For Sama had won not only best documentary against the Obama backed American Factory but also had been nominated and won best picture it would have been a statement against those who confuse anti-interventionism with peace.
For this war is still raging in Syria and still nothing has been done by the west, there will be an attempt to rehabilitate Assad into the international order, but this film’s mere existence stands against that and against. It holds murderers to account so that maybe we shall never see anything on the scale of this ever again. For this, this film ought to be written into the annals of film history, so that the lives lost in the fight for freedom shall never be forgotten.
For Sama is available to watch for free on channel 4 and the All4 app.