For Sama (2019) - Film Review
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Our introduction to the world of war-torn Syria begins one evening in the hospital our documentarian inhabits. The building begins to shake as it is once again targeted by shelling. Flashes of light, and clouds of dust and smoke invade the tight corridors. The lights cut out and through the cacophony of rumbling explosions and wailing bedside monitors, somebody cries: “We need to pump the ventilators by hand”. This is just aAnother average night shift amongst the five years of violence inflicted on the people of Aleppo.
We follow the journalist Waad al-Kateab and her journey of falling in love and marriage to a doctor running a makeshift hospital, as well as the birth of two children. We see the journey from peaceful protests of the regime into revolution, followed by the Russian-backed siege of Aleppo, all from within rebel territory. Five years’ worth of camcorder and phone footage are condensed into a sincere explanation to her daughter, Sama, as to why they chose to stay and raise her in such a dangerous place. We view unbelievable footage of emergency medical care in war, overlaid with Waad’s thoughtful narration questioning this choice to stay.
The raw uncut nature of the filming will leave you horrified at the extremes of violence that humans can commit on one another, but maybe that’s for the best. Reported on the news, these events can seem sterile, and I would argue that the only true way to even start to comprehend the effects of this conflict is to observe it through the eyes of the oppressed. This violence is contrasted by a brave sense of community between those who chose to stay, attempting to forge a better life for them and their families. From the devastation and tragedy of a bombing raid, the film cuts to children playing in water-filled bomb craters as if the fighting is a distant memory, reminding us of the innocence of those most affected. And through this contrast we also see the strength of these people choosing to live for love and hope in the face of torture and barbarity. This all ultimately culminates into a love letter not only for her daughter, but for the innocent citizens of Syria, and their struggle for freedom and normal lives.
By Archie Wing