In For Sama, you are Waad Al-Kateab, a young journalist born and living in Syria. You were once idealistic and free-spirited, in love with a doctor named Hamza. You once had a beautiful home together, ready to build it up with love and raise children there. And then the war begins.
Through a non-linear timeline, Al-Kateab puts us into her perspective as a Syrian citizen who saw her country rise in the Arab Spring and fall shortly after into chaos, now living through an unending, immoral and inexplicable war. And she has a daughter. For Sama is, well, for Sama, Hamza and Waad’s daughter born in the middle of the conflict and the reason for the documentary’s existence: a cautionary tale and education tool for what the war is doing to people and what it means to fight for freedom.
For Sama is one of the most challenging and utterly gripping pieces of cinema I’ve seen in the last decade. Cinema is about locking you into an experience, whether it’s a thrill-ride or nerve-shattering emotional exhaustion, and anywhere in between. This documentary seeks to do what documentaries are made for and keep going, keep on affecting you and you leave enlightened and angered at the international community’s complete inability to deal with this civil war. We worry ourselves with refugees on the shores but never do enough to stop the cause of their exodus. It is a hard watch, but an entirely necessary one.
There is one scenario in the middle of For Sama that I could not breathe through. Waad and Hamza’s perspective is that of people trying to run a makeshift hospital in the lobby of their apartment building, one of many hospitals being targeted by the Syrian regime-backed Russian warplanes. They treat dozens of injured men, women, and children every single day without end. Most of the time no-one is saved. Death surrounds these innocent people, this mother and father dedicated to helping their people, and when faced with a newborn child on an operating table, you are with them, holding their hands, shedding tears and crying out to God and Allah for help and love.
I cannot spoil what happens because I had no idea what was to come through each second of this hospital event, but know that you will be left in tears and shattered. For Sama is a perfect piece of documentary filmmaking; emotionally charged, informative, timely, enlightening, challenging, and endlessly human.
Seek For Sama out any way you can, prepare yourself for heartbreak and contemplation, and leave knowing more about the possibilities for mankind’s will to survive and love one another even in the face of death and hatred.
Director: Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts