How could any of us picture what life is like under siege from the standpoint of 2020 Europe? The BBC’s Leningrad and The Orchestra that Defied Hitler told the tale of a famous WW2 siege, but it’s hard to imagine such a thing could happen now, is it not?
For Sama brings us crashing down to earth and reveals the horror and hope of life under siege in Syria’s Aleppo – in our own time, in 2016. The documentary is addressed to the daughter of journalist and filmmaker Waad al-Kateab, baby Sama, whose birth in the middle of the siege is a small ray of hope in an otherwise bleak story. It is hard to watch this outstanding film without feeling an impotent outrage, tempered by a corresponding joy in the human spirit.
The Guardian’s Mark Kermode calls it a “powerful, harrowing and deeply human documentary” and he captures the viewers emotions perfectly when he says that there are “many moments in For Sama when audiences will want to look away, not least because so many of the victims being dragged out of ravaged buildings or laid out on blood-soaked floors are children.” In The New York Times Teo Bugbee thinks that Waad al-Kateab’s filmmaking “provides an uncannily relatable example of the mundane experience of war. Profound bravery exists alongside profound ordinariness”. The film sees people still gathering for dinner and reading bedtime stories and “prompts audience members to ask themselves: How long would you defy tyranny if your world was coming down around you?” Clarisse Loughrey in the Independent warns that there is footage in For Sama that “will make you sick to your stomach,” but the film’s great achievement is that “it captures with equal clarity the moments between the terror. It shows us how people can survive under a veil of normalcy.”
First shown September 2019. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here: