“We’re overthrowing Bashar even if only on the walls. We’re the free students of Aleppo.” - A Syrian student
Even if you are apathetic to the news, chances are you have heard about the war in Syria. And yet, the news can’t quite prepare you for some of the scenes in the documentary For Sama, directed by Waad al-Kateab and James Watts.
In one scene, a number of bodies are arranged on the floor for identification before a mass burial. We see one corpse with the skin of his forehead draping from his face. Moments later, we are informed that the bodies showed signs of torture and most of the persons were killed by a headshot.
In another scene, a little boy looks stunned, his face covered in ashes. His home has just been hit during an airstrike. Later, he would overcome the shock, but only to cry over a dead family member.
In yet another scene, a mother comes upon the corpse of her child in a makeshift hospital. She cradles the wrapped body and walks out, refusing the assistance of the healthcare staff.
“This is my son,” she says again and again, carrying him through the streets.
These scenes are not a war report; these are excerpts from the lives of ordinary people faced with extraordinary violence. Al-Kateab mostly excises the larger politics of the Syria situation and in doing so allows the audience access to families and lives displaced by war.
For Sama puts the audience in the middle of the war in Syria, particularly in Aleppo, and is told as a first-hand account of living in a siege. Moving back and forth in time, she tells us how she, her family and her friends lived through the experience. There is war, blood and corpses—but there is friendship, a wedding and dances, a reminder that strange as the situation is, life does go on.
Along with the video footage, director al-Kateab provides a voiceover through the film. But it isn’t quite a straight commentary. It is a letter to Sama, the child she bore with her husband Hamza during the siege. Of course, Sama isn’t quite aware of what has happened. But thanks to her mother, she—along with other kids in the film—will have a document bearing terrible witness.
For Sama is the opening film of the 2019 AFRIFF and is scheduled to screen on Sunday, November 10th 2019.
Time: 6pm Screen: Filmhouse Landmark – Screen 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
Friday, 15th November
Time: 4PM Screen: Filmhouse Landmark, Screen 5