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The Bafta-winning ‘For Sama’ is our must-see documentary for awards season

by Erin Lindsay
04th Feb 2020

‘For Sama’ is a documentation of a baby girl’s early years as she grows up in war-torn Syria

In one of the most emotional acceptance speeches of the night, Waad al-Kateab, a Syrian woman who stood on the stage with her family, thanked Bafta for the award for Best Documentary. Al-Kateab’s film was one that was created in a way that many of us are familiar with — home movies of our children around the house.

Like many parents, Al-Kateab always had a camcorder in her hands during the first couple of years of her baby girl Sama’s life. She captured her smiles, first steps, and precious moments between her, her husband and their daughter. But what separated her home movies from every other mother’s was what was happening outside — regular, targeted bombing of her city of Aleppo in Syria.

For Sama shows the devastating effects that regular bombing of hospitals and healthcare facilities can have on a community. The hospital where Sama should have been happily getting her check-ups and vaccinations was continuously reduced to rubble. Al-Kateab and her husband, Hamza, lived for months in a makeshift hospital, where Hamza (a physician) would tend to wounded civilians. The humanitarian crisis in Syria was shown so strongly in the film, while baby Sama had to learn to navigate her life as part of the crisis.

The film has also been praised for its unique angle in showing a woman’s perspective of the Syrian war. Conflict and war documentaries are almost exclusively made by men, but al-Kateab’s direction, from the view of motherhood and womanhood, is a fresh and welcome take on a harrowing story. In the midst of political and cultural turmoil, and dealing with daily bombings, violence and riots, al-Kateab’s main concerns are that of any other mother — to make sure that her baby is safe, fed and as happy as she can be.

Accepting her award on Sunday night, al-Kateab was accompanied by her husband on stage, and their little girl Sama, who is now four years old. The sight of them together on stage was a heartwarming reminder of what For Sama is really about – hope. Hope for the future, and belief that things can work out for the better. Sama, in her sparkly awards dress, is living proof.

For Sama can be streamed free on All4

Read more: BAFTAs 2020: All the winners

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Read more: 7 Netflix picks we can’t wait for in February