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ArtsCultureFilm & TV

For Sama [Oscar-Nominated Film Review]

ArtsCultureFilm & TV

For Sama [Oscar-Nominated Film Review]

For Sama is a beautifully constructed and ultimately heart-breaking rendition of life in war-torn Aleppo; Al-Kateab humanises a war which too often is told through statistics and facts.

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For Sama is a devastating documentary centred on the horrors of the Syrian civil war, but told through the unique perspective of a mother, Waad Al-Kateab, trying to raise her baby daughter Sama amidst the chaos of war-torn Aleppo. Through Al-Kateab’s first-hand footage, the documentary catalogues the life of her family over five years of the Syrian civil war, from the first rumblings of anti-Assad demonstrations in 2011 to when she was forced to flee from the city in 2016. 

Al-Kateab, the documentary’s film-maker and co-director, addresses and dedicates the film to Sama, who was born in the midst of the siege. The film begins with footage of Sama’s delicate cooing to her mother’s singing, but it is ominously punctured by the sound of distant artillery. Soon the scene escalates, as Waad and Sama are forced to leave their sanctuary within a hospital (where her husband Hamza worked as a doctor) to protect themselves from the bombing. Hospitals have often been targeted during the course of the Syrian civil war. 

This type of scene is repeated throughout the passage of the film. Moments of calm and beauty are interwoven with moments of terror, as Waad and the other residents of Aleppo try to create hope within the rubble of a destroyed city.

The suffering of children

Sama is the encapsulation of that hope. Al-Kateab comments that she named her daughter after the Arabic word for “sky”. While the sky is usually seen as a symbol of hope, in Syria it has become a source of death and destruction as military aircrafts batter the country with bombs. Al-Kateab explains that she wanted to reclaim the meaning of sky by tying the word to her daughter. 

Trying to cultivate innocence within a war zone is a constant struggle, as the film so poignantly shows. Al-Kateab at one point laments the fact that Sama does “not cry like a normal child would”. Amidst the cacophony of airstrikes and missiles, Sama remains coolly stoic, and does not react to the explosions with tears and screams as you expect a child would.

The viewer can see the innocence of the children of Aleppo slowly being worn away amidst the conflict. Children “play” by painting burnt-out buses, and are told stories designed to educate them on what to do in the event of an airstrike. Words like “cluster bomb” and “siege” enter their vocabulary. A boy is forced to say goodbye to his brother killed in an airstrike. Friends leave other friends behind as their parents make the difficult decision to leave their city behind. The documentary unflinchingly shows the caustic effect of war on innocent children, in a way that is imprinted on you long after the film has finished.

Review

For Sama is a beautifully constructed and ultimately heart-breaking rendition of life in war-torn Aleppo. Al-Kateab humanises a war which too often is told through statistics and facts. By juxtaposing the mundane with the horrific drama of war, the viewer gets an insight into the power of the everyday, which is often taken for granted. A particularly touching scene is when a husband presents his wife with a persimmon fruit, a seemingly trivial gesture which is greeted with an outpouring of joy. The documentary’s magic lies in the valorisation of the seemingly trivial. 

The film is often harrowing and hard to watch. Pictures of dead Syrians and crying mothers litter the screen, as well as the constant chorus of airstrikes. However difficult the viewing, the story of Waad, Hamza and Sama carries the viewer onward, willing them to find peace amidst the tragedy of war.

What is happening in Syria right now?

Syria has been under the grip of a devastating civil war since 2011. What started as a peaceful uprising against the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, turned into a full-scale civil war that has left more than 380,000 people dead, including over 115,000 civilians.

At this moment the conflict is focused on the fight for Idlib, a province in north-western Syria, which is said to be the last stronghold of the rebel forces trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. Assad, reinforced by Russian forces and Iranian-backed militias, has vowed to continue to battle for the “liberation” of Idlib.

Since early December 2019, 900,000 civilians have been forced to flee their homes to escape the conflict. The UN’s Under-Secretary-General has warned of the “biggest humanitarian horror story of the 21st century”, where “indiscriminate” airstrikes are targeting civilian areas such as hospitals, schools, and mosques. 

How can you help?

Waad has started her own campaign, Action For Sama, to help end the targeting of healthcare facilities in Syria. You can donate to their page to support the efforts of humanitarians and medics  saving lives in Syria. They have collaborated with Help Refugees to ensure that every penny goes towards helping them.

Whilst you’re here…

The Muslim Vibe is a non-profit media platform aiming to inspire, inform and empower Muslims like you. Our goal is to provide a space for young Muslims to learn about their faith as well as news stories affecting them, so we can reclaim the Muslim narrative from the mainstream.

Your support will help us achieve this goal, and enable us to produce more original content. Your support can help us in the fight against Islamophobia, by building a powerful platform for young Muslims who can share their ideas, experiences and opinions for a better future.

Please consider supporting The Muslim Vibe, from as little as £1 – it will only take a minute. Thank you and Jazakallah.

Keep Reading

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For Sama is a beautifully constructed and ultimately heart-breaking rendition of life in war-torn Aleppo; Al-Kateab humanises a war which too often is told through statistics and facts.

For Sama is a devastating documentary centred on the horrors of the Syrian civil war, but told through the unique perspective of a mother, Waad Al-Kateab, trying to raise her baby daughter Sama amidst the chaos of war-torn Aleppo. Through Al-Kateab’s first-hand footage, the documentary catalogues the life of her family over five years of the Syrian civil war, from the first rumblings of anti-Assad demonstrations in 2011 to when she was forced to flee from the city in 2016. 

Al-Kateab, the documentary’s film-maker and co-director, addresses and dedicates the film to Sama, who was born in the midst of the siege. The film begins with footage of Sama’s delicate cooing to her mother’s singing, but it is ominously punctured by the sound of distant artillery. Soon the scene escalates, as Waad and Sama are forced to leave their sanctuary within a hospital (where her husband Hamza worked as a doctor) to protect themselves from the bombing. Hospitals have often been targeted during the course of the Syrian civil war. 

This type of scene is repeated throughout the passage of the film. Moments of calm and beauty are interwoven with moments of terror, as Waad and the other residents of Aleppo try to create hope within the rubble of a destroyed city.

The suffering of children

Sama is the encapsulation of that hope. Al-Kateab comments that she named her daughter after the Arabic word for “sky”. While the sky is usually seen as a symbol of hope, in Syria it has become a source of death and destruction as military aircrafts batter the country with bombs. Al-Kateab explains that she wanted to reclaim the meaning of sky by tying the word to her daughter. 

Trying to cultivate innocence within a war zone is a constant struggle, as the film so poignantly shows. Al-Kateab at one point laments the fact that Sama does “not cry like a normal child would”. Amidst the cacophony of airstrikes and missiles, Sama remains coolly stoic, and does not react to the explosions with tears and screams as you expect a child would.

The viewer can see the innocence of the children of Aleppo slowly being worn away amidst the conflict. Children “play” by painting burnt-out buses, and are told stories designed to educate them on what to do in the event of an airstrike. Words like “cluster bomb” and “siege” enter their vocabulary. A boy is forced to say goodbye to his brother killed in an airstrike. Friends leave other friends behind as their parents make the difficult decision to leave their city behind. The documentary unflinchingly shows the caustic effect of war on innocent children, in a way that is imprinted on you long after the film has finished.

Review

For Sama is a beautifully constructed and ultimately heart-breaking rendition of life in war-torn Aleppo. Al-Kateab humanises a war which too often is told through statistics and facts. By juxtaposing the mundane with the horrific drama of war, the viewer gets an insight into the power of the everyday, which is often taken for granted. A particularly touching scene is when a husband presents his wife with a persimmon fruit, a seemingly trivial gesture which is greeted with an outpouring of joy. The documentary’s magic lies in the valorisation of the seemingly trivial. 

The film is often harrowing and hard to watch. Pictures of dead Syrians and crying mothers litter the screen, as well as the constant chorus of airstrikes. However difficult the viewing, the story of Waad, Hamza and Sama carries the viewer onward, willing them to find peace amidst the tragedy of war.

What is happening in Syria right now?

Syria has been under the grip of a devastating civil war since 2011. What started as a peaceful uprising against the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, turned into a full-scale civil war that has left more than 380,000 people dead, including over 115,000 civilians.

At this moment the conflict is focused on the fight for Idlib, a province in north-western Syria, which is said to be the last stronghold of the rebel forces trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. Assad, reinforced by Russian forces and Iranian-backed militias, has vowed to continue to battle for the “liberation” of Idlib.

Since early December 2019, 900,000 civilians have been forced to flee their homes to escape the conflict. The UN’s Under-Secretary-General has warned of the “biggest humanitarian horror story of the 21st century”, where “indiscriminate” airstrikes are targeting civilian areas such as hospitals, schools, and mosques. 

How can you help?

Waad has started her own campaign, Action For Sama, to help end the targeting of healthcare facilities in Syria. You can donate to their page to support the efforts of humanitarians and medics  saving lives in Syria. They have collaborated with Help Refugees to ensure that every penny goes towards helping them.

Whilst you’re here…

The Muslim Vibe is a non-profit media platform aiming to inspire, inform and empower Muslims like you. Our goal is to provide a space for young Muslims to learn about their faith as well as news stories affecting them, so we can reclaim the Muslim narrative from the mainstream.

Your support will help us achieve this goal, and enable us to produce more original content. Your support can help us in the fight against Islamophobia, by building a powerful platform for young Muslims who can share their ideas, experiences and opinions for a better future.

Please consider supporting The Muslim Vibe, from as little as £1 – it will only take a minute. Thank you and Jazakallah.

Keep Reading

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