For Sama – the strength of humanity in the face of war


Rating: 5 out of 5.

For Sama is showing in selected cinemas now.

Capturing the horror of a war where crimes against humanity are still fresh requires bravery, resilience and urgency. But filming your own family’s journey through the hate, destruction, and pain takes determination and a belief that the world should bear witness to the horror surrounding you.

In a world of 24-hour news, we have all become accustomed to scenes of war, destruction and death, our minds accepting the horrors humans enact on each other before quickly moving on. For Sama shakes us out of our 24-hour news coma by mixing classic war journalism with personal journeys of hope, compassion, despair and pain. The result is a documentary that shakes the viewer to the core, asking them to reflect upon the abject horror of war and the strength of those who strive to provide sanctuary.


At its heart, For Sama is an intimate and emotional memoir as a mother questions the world her child has been born into. Taking place in Aleppo from 2012 to 2016, the hopes of a new Syria are greeted by the brutal and destructive force of the Assad regime. Here we meet Waad al-Kateab and her husband Hamza (a doctor in Aleppo) just as young Sama enters the world. However, Sama’s world is already in turmoil, and as war knocks at the door of a once secure family life, whole families, communities, and cities will be torn apart as Assad demands subservience.


Through the destruction of an ancient city and the mounting bodies of those whose only misfortune was hope for a better tomorrow, For Sama shows us the strength of the human spirit in the face of war. Here the stolen innocence of childhood is reflected in the eyes of every young person we encounter as the adults question their own beliefs and hopes. Like so many wars, the horror we witness is born from the hope of revolution and rebirth. Yet, as the drone camera footage floats above the ruins, the sheer power of autocracy and control greets us. Here the brutality of a regime that tortures and sacrifices its own people for power hangs in the air like concrete dust and smoke, with the world turning a blind eye. But through the dust and smoke are a people who will never be enslaved, a fierce, loyal and brave band of brothers and sisters who know they will one day return to the ashes and rebuild.

For Sama is documentary filmmaking at its most potent as it asks us all to play witness to the horror of the Syrian war and wake up from our 24-hour news coma. It is a journey into the fragility of peace, freedom, hope, and the selfless struggle to protect everything we hold dear.

Director: Waad al-Kateab, Edward Watts

With: Waad al-Kateab, Hamza al-Kateab, Sama al-Kateab

Channel 4 News / ITN / PBS America (2019)

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