“I keep filming, it gives me reasons to be here,” says Waad al-Kateab, the award-winning documentary maker whose Oscar-nominated film For Sama gave the world a glimpse into the real tragedies taking place in her hometown of Aleppo.
When her city started to descend into chaos, al-Kateab, a former news journalist, didn’t run. As protests filled the streets and bombs flattened buildings, she remained resolute, pulling out her Sony camera and filming everything she could. When a child was dying in the hospital where al-Kateab’s husband worked as one of the only doctors, the hysterical mother begged her, “keep going.” So al-Kateab kept recording.
The result is a journey into the female experience during and after the battle of Aleppo in 2012. For Sama documents her falling in love and giving birth to her daughter, Sama, and is framed as a letter from mother to child. It captures love, loss, survival, and laughter in the pursuit of freedom – showing Sama what they were fighting for. “No one had any idea how our lives would be changed forever,” al-Kateab says in the film. Her first-hand account of the war in Syria is searingly candid, showing hospitals getting bombed, babies being maimed, and civilians forced to run for their lives. For Sama reveals the reality perhaps missing from the news – the human story. “Death was close,” says the activist, “but if people keep pushing, things will change and there will be justice. And we will keep fighting – no matter how long it takes.”
Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Vogue Man Arabia