Sheffield Doc/Fest Review: For Sama

Although they’re extremely important in raising awareness, no amount of news stories can accurately describe what it’s like to live under a siege. The Battle of Aleppo, which took place during the ongoing Syrian Civil War, was particularly brutal. With parts of the city effectively sealed-off, Russian airstrikes decimated whole areas and actively targeted hospitals in an attempt to break the spirit of the resolute defenders.

Waad al-Kateab’s spent five years of her life during the conflict in Aleppo. She moved to the ancient city to study and ended up taking it into her heart. Whilst living there she started filming and never stopped. During this time, she falls in love, gets married and gives birth to a daughter; Sama. With her husband coordinating the medical response, she must decide whether to stay and fight for freedom or leave the city for the safety of her daughter.

For Sama is an intimate portrait of life in the middle of a warzone. It’s profoundly disturbing, constantly unsettling, unbelievably charming and achingly tragic. By focusing on the small world around her, along with the assistance of co-director Edward Watts, she paints a portrait of what it was like living in constant fear inside Aleppo. For Sama is an astonishing achievement. A moving memorial to all who died in the pursuit of freedom.  

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