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FOR SAMA

Waad al-Kateab & Edward Watts
SY UK 2019    60' 80' 95'
⚬ Human Interest ⚬ Human Rights 

Synopsis

FOR SAMA is both an intimate and epic journey into the female experience of war. A love letter from a young mother to her daughter, the film tells the story of Waad al-Kateab’s life through five years of the uprising in Aleppo, Syria as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth to Sama, all while cataclysmic conflict rises around her.
 

Her camera captures incredible stories of loss, laughter and survival as Waad wrestles with an impossible choice – whether or not to flee the city to protect her daughter’s life, when leaving means abandoning the struggle for freedom for which she has already sacrificed so much.

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Quotes

Credits

Directors

Waad al-Kateab & Edward Watts

Producer 

Waad al-Kateab

Executive Producers

George Waldrum, Nevine Mabro, Siobhan Sinnerton, Ben de Pear, Raney Aronson-Rath, Dan Edge

Production Companies

ITN Productions, Channel 4 News, Channel 4, PBS FRONTLINE

Cinematography

Waad al-Kateab

Music

Nainita Desai

"A very powerful, personal documentary... It's a rare female perspective in a war zone."
– Wendy MItchel - Screen Daily


"Hardcore current affairs reporting and intimate personal testimony merge to compelling effect in For Sama"
– Screen Daily


"Simple in concept, shattering in execution…a ragged, remarkable act of cinematic witnessing"
– Variety


"One of the most remarkable films ever made about the Syrian uprising"
– The Hollywood Reporter


"Hugely impressive… powerful stuff"
– Cineuropa


"With For Sama, which screened on Wednesday as part of Cannes’ Special Screenings lineup, directors Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts do find something new to say by taking a very simple, very personal approach."
– The Wrap


"For Sama is a harrowing experience and certainly one of the most essential films of the year"
– The Filmstage


"harrowing and essential"
– The Filmstage


"It will be difficult to find a piece of work at the Cannes Film Festival that is more emotionally devastating and depressingly timely than Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts’s award-winning documentary, For Sama … the film brings the heartbreaking conflict in Syria, and the resilience and suffering of its people, to the screen with such immediacy and force that you stagger away at the end feeling drained and enraged, but also inspired."
– The National AE


"A harrowing yet tender love story. Gorgeous, moving filmmaking."
– SXSW Grand Jury Judge

"for its unflinching lens on the horrors of war, accompanied by a tender portrait of a young family born out of conflict, and the courageous community that surrounds them."
– Hot Docs Special Jury Prize
 

Awards

Best Documentary Feature &
Richard D. Propes Social Impact Award

Heartland Film Festival 2019

Audience Choice Award

Calgary International Film Festival 2019

Documentary Jury Award &
Inaugural Mohamed Amin Courage in Filmmaking

Milwaukee Film Festival 2019

Brizzolara Family Foundation Award
for Films of Conflict and Resolution

Hamptons International Film Festival 2019

International Jury Grand Prize & Audience Award War on Screen 2019
Audience Award Arabisches Film Festival Turbingen 2019
College Jury Prize Quebec City International Film Festival 2019
Golden Eye Documentary Prize Cannes 2019
Audience Award Film Fest Ghent 2020
Best Documentary International Emmy Awards 2020
Best Cinema Documentary Grierson Awards 2020
Best Documentary Director & Best Original Score RTS CRAFT & DESIGN AWARDS 2020
Best Documentary Edinburgh TV Awards 2020
International Affairs Documentary AIB Media Awards 2020
Best Feature German Human Rights Film Awards 2020
The Peter Jennings Award for Best TV, Video of Documentary about International Affairs with a Run Time Over 30 minutes Overseas Press Club 2020
Best Documentary Amnesty International (UK) Media Awards 2020
Special Prize in honour of the President of the Italian Republic Prix Italia 2020
Best Original Score Ivor Novello Awards 2020
Best Documentary Peabody Awards 2020
International TV & John Seigenthaler Prize for Courage in Reporting RFK Book and Journalism Awards 2020
TV Video Award Sanford St Martins Awards 2020
Best Single Documentary BPG Awards 2020
Best Single Documentary Broadcasting Press Guild Awards 2020
Best Documentary Indiana Film Journalists Association 2019
Freedom of Expression Award National Board of Review 2019
Best Film Award for Bader competition Ajyal Film Festival 2019
Special Recognition for Courage in Filmmaking DOC NYC 2019
Audience Award Best Documentary SXSW 2019
Grand Jury Award Best Documentary SXSW 2019
Special Jury Prize Hot Docs 2019
Best Cinematography River Run FF 2019
Grand Jury Award for international documentary feature Asian Pacific Film Fest 2019
Doc Audience Award Sheffield Doc/Fest 2019
Special Mention Grand Jury Award Sheffield Doc/Fest 2019
Best Film Unipol Award Biografilm Festival 2019
Audience Award Biografilm Festival 2019
Documentary Feature Audience Award Nantucket Film Festival 2019
Bayern 2- und SZ-Audience Award Filmfest Munich 2019
Best International Documentary Feature Film Guanajuato International Film Festival 2019
Honourable Mention Grand Jury Prize Gimli Film Festival 2019
Best Documentary Durban International Film Festival 2019
Checkpoints Award Bergen International Film Festival 2019
Municipality of Bitola Best Documentary Film Manaki Brothers IFF 2019
Audience Choice Award, International Documentary Calgary IFF 2019
Brizzolara Family Foundation Award to Films of Conflict and Resolution Hamptons International Film Festival 2019
Grand Prize for Documentary & Richard D Propes Social Impact Award Heartland Film Festival 2019
International Jury Grand Prix & Audience Award War on Screen 2019
Special Mention Critic’s Choice Women on Frame Award DocsMX 2019
Courage Under Fire Award IDA Documentary Awards 2019
Conviction Award Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards 2019
Grand Prize for Best Film Traverse City Film Festival 2019
Grand Jury Prize Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival 2019
Best Documentary Newport Beach Film Festival 2019
Documentary Feature Audience Award Lighthouse Int’l Film Fest 2019
Best Int’l Feature & Best Human Rights Film Galway Film Fleadh 2019
Documentary Audience Award Minneapolis St. Paul Int’l Film Festival 2019
Main Award Al Jazeera Balkans Documentary Film Festival 2019
Audience Choice Award Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival 2019
Impact Award Naples International Film Festival 2019
Norman Vaughan Indomitable Spirit Award Mountain Film 2019
Heartbeat Hitchcock Award Dinard Film Festival 2019
Best Film Antenna Documentary Film Festival (co-winner) 2019
Jury Award, Best Documentary & Mohamed Amin Courage in Film Award Milwaukee Film Festival 2019
Best Directing, Documentary Lost Weekend XII Film Festival 2019
Youth Jury Award FrontDoc 2019
Best Film MedFilmFest 2019
Silver Tanit, Feature Documentaries Carthage Film Festival 2019
Best International Documentary Movies on War 2019
Audience Award IDFA 2019
Best Film MedFilmFestival 2019
Amnesty International Award MedFilmFestival 2019
Best Film British Independent Film Awards 2019
Best Directors British Independent Film Awards 2019
Best Documentary British Independent Film Awards 2019
Best Editing British Independent Film Awards 2019
Prize of the Youth Jury Filmkunstmesse Leipzig 2019
Courage Under Fire Award (Waad al-Kateab) IDA Documentary Awards 2019
Best Feature IDA Documentary Awards 2019
Best Documentary European Film Awards 2019
Best Feature Documentary Karama Human Rights Film Festival 2019
Outstanding Achievement in Production Cinema Eye Honors 2020
Nominated for Best Documentary Feature Academy Awards 2020
Nominated for Outstanding British Film, Best Documentary, Best Foreign Language Film, Outstanding Debut Director BAFTA 2020
Documentary of the Year London Film Critics’ Circle Awards 2020
Best Documentary BAFTA 2020
Fight for your Freedom Award Budapest International Documentary Festival 2020
Vera Statue Vera Filmfestival 2020
Best Film International Migration Film Festival 2020
Audience Award Sofia Documental 2020
Best Foreign Film Guldbaggen 2021

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Festivals

SXSW 2019

Hot Docs 2019

RiverRun Film Festival 2019

Biografilm 2019 

L.A. Asian Pacific Film Festival 2019
Sheffield Doc/Fest 2019
Carthage Film Festival 2019
AJB DOC Film Festival
Jio MAMI 20th Mumbai Film Festival
Melbourne IFF 2019
New Zealand IFF 2019
Durban IFF 2019
Filmfest München 2019
Bergen IFF 2019
IDFA 2019
Ajyal Youth FF 2019
IDFA 2019
Encounters 2020

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Film Details

Runtimes 60' 80' 95'
Spoken Languages Arabic
Production Countries Syria, UK

Biography

Waad al-Kateab (Director, Producer and Camerawoman)

In January 2016 Waad al-Kateab started documenting the horrors of Aleppo for Channel 4 News in a series of devastating films simply titled INSIDE ALEPPO. The reports she made for Channel 4 News on the conflict in Syria, and the most complex humanitarian crisis in the world, became the most watched pieces on the UK news programme – and received almost half a billion views online and won 24 awards – including the 2016 International Emmy for breaking news coverage. Waad was a marketing student at the University of Aleppo when protests against the Assad regime swept the country in 2011. Like many hundreds of her fellow Syrians, she became a citizen journalist determined to document the horrors of the war. She taught herself how to film – and started filming the human suffering around her as Assad forces battled rebels for control of Aleppo. She stayed through the devastating siege – documenting the terrible loss of life and producing some of the most memorable images of the six-year conflict. When she and her family were evacuated from Aleppo in December 2016, she managed to get all her footage out. Waad lives in London with her husband Hamza and two daughters.

Edward Watts (Director)

Edward Watts is an Emmy award-winning, BAFTA nominated filmmaker who has directed over twenty narrative and documentary films that tell true stories of courage, heroism and humour from across the world, covering everything from war crimes in the Congo to the colourful lives of residents in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. His 2015 film ESCAPE FROM ISIS exposed the brutal treatment of the estimated 4-million women living under the rule of the Islamic State and, for the first time on television, told the extraordinary story of an underground network trying to save those it can. It received numerous international awards and citations, including an International Emmy and Bafta nomination for Best Current Affairs Documentary. Prime Minister David Cameron cited the film in a major policy speech on ISIS. Edward was also invited to testify at the US Congress about the film’s key findings at the Committee on Foreign Affairs in Washington DC in July 2015. Among his other work, his first narrative short film OKSIJAN told the incredible true story of a 7-year-old Afghan boy’s fight to survive as he is smuggled to the UK in a refrigerated lorry and the air inside begins to run out. It premiered at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017 and has since played at prestigious film festivals around the world.

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