Will harrowing Syrian war documentary For Sama rake in another victory at the Oscars?

Will harrowing Syrian war documentary For Sama rake in another victory at the Oscars?
Harrowing Syrian war documentary For Sama is in the running for best feature documentary at Sunday's Oscars.
3 min read
08 February, 2020
Hamza al-Kateab, Sama, Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts pose at the BAFTAs [AFP/Getty]
For Sama, a 2019 Syrian documentary depicting a young mother's life during the civil war, could win another coveted accolade at Sunday's Oscars.

The film, directed by Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts, entered the spotlight last week when it won won Best Documentary at the 74th British Academy Film Awards.

The riveting war documentary could make headlines again this Sunday at the Oscars, where it is in the running for best feature documentary.

The Oscars is widely considered the film industry's biggest prize.

For Sama revolves around the experiences of Al-Kateab, a Syrian refugee.

At the time of its nomination for the Oscars, Al-Kateab and Watt responded: "We are so delighted and honoured to be nominated for an Oscar, alongside these incredible films and filmmakers. It is a moment that we had never imagined on a journey spanning nine-years from near death to new life."

Portrayed as a letter from mother to daughter, the director films her day-to-day life in Aleppo over the course of five years, from the city's 2011 uprising to its siege by Bashar al-Assad's forces.

Al-Kateab gets married and gives birth to her daughter Sama, whose upbringing amid chaotic warfare fills the new mother with palpable fear.

Al-Kateab took the BAFTA stage Sunday with her husband Hamza and four year old Sama, who was the first to hold the prestigious award. Watts and Afraa Hashem, a Syrian teacher featured in the film, stood alongside the family.

The Syrian filmmaker saw an opportunity in her acceptance speech and shifted the star-studded audience's attention to Syrian civilians' plight.

"This award, I will dedicate it for the great Syrian people who [are] still suffering until today and the great heroes of doctors, nurses, civil defence," she said.

The harrowing documentary is in the running for the Oscars for best feature documentary alongside another hard hitting film about the Syrian war - the Cave. 

The Cave follows an all-women medical team working at an underground hospital in Eastern Ghouta, outside Damascus, as the opposition enclave is subject to continuous bombardment by regime forces.

Read more: For Sama: One mother's astonishing tale for her daughter documenting hope and horror in Syria

It is hoped that both films will shine a light on the Syria war, which broke out in 2011 after regime forces suppressed peaceful protests sparking an armed revolt against Bashar Al-Assad. 

More than half-a-million people have lost their lives in the conflict.

For Sama was the BAFTAs' most nominated feature documentary. In addition to the Best Documentary category, For Sama was also nominated for Outstanding British Film; Outstanding Debut By A British Writer, Director Or Producer; and Best Film Not In The English Language.

Al-Kateab, who uses a pseudonym due to safety concerns, fled Syria with her family in 2016. She currently resides in London with her husband and two daughters.

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