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Waad al-Kateab filming the ruins of a building destroyed by bombing in besieg...

Credit: Courtesy of Waad al-Kateab/FRONTLINE

Above: Waad al-Kateab filming the ruins of a building destroyed by bombing in besieged east Aleppo, Syria in October 2016.

One Woman's Journey of Love, Motherhood & Survival During the Syrian War

“Simple in concept, shattering in execution… it’s you-are -there cinema of
the most literal order.” – Variety

“There simply hasn’t been a film like it before.” - The Times

“Deeply powerful…a rare firsthand account of war from a strictly female perspective,” - The Hollywood Reporter

FRONTLINE presents the U.S. broadcast premiere of one of the year’s most critically acclaimed documentaries: "For Sama," an intimate yet epic journey into one woman’s experience of the Syrian war. 

Unfolding as a love letter from filmmaker and young mother Waad al-Kateab to her daughter,

"For Sama" tells the story of Waad’s life through five years of the uprising in rebel-held Aleppo, Syria. Waad falls in love, gets married and gives birth to her daughter Sama — all while filming the cataclysmic conflict raging around them.

“This is not just a film for me – it’s my life,” says Waad, who directed "For Sama" alongside her fellow director, Edward Watts ("Escaping ISIS"). “I was afraid I would never tell this story, and that the crimes I witnessed would be never be seen or heard.”

For Sama (Full Episode)

In a time of conflict and darkness in her home in Aleppo, Syria, one young woman kept her camera rolling — while falling in love, getting married, having a baby and saying goodbye as her city crumbled. The award-winning documentary unfolds as a love letter from filmmaker and young mother Waad al-Kateab to her daughter — Sama.

"For Sama" has made a decorated run on the film festival circuit — including winning the Prix L’Œil d’Or for Best Documentary at the Cannes Film Festival, the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival, and the Special Jury Prize – International Feature Documentary at Hot Docs.

The documentary chronicles Sama’s first year of life: the last year of the battle for the city, and a time of almost unimaginable darkness. Hospitals are bombed, Aleppo is besieged by the Assad regime, and the remaining civilians witness attacks by chlorine gas, cluster and barrel bombs, and massacres of women and children.

Explosions Shook an Aleppo Hospital. One Young Mother Kept Filming

Wrapped in a pink-and-white striped blanket, the baby girl coos at her mother, who gently speaks and sings to her from the other side of the camera. Eyes wide, the baby reaches for a tiny foot and brings it to her mouth. For just a moment, it could be any smitten new mom’s footage of her baby daughter. Then comes the sound of an explosion.

Amid the horror, baby Sama gives Waad the strength to endure: fighting for her dream of a free Syria; filming, directing and producing "For Sama"; and offering a lens into the country’s war through her eyes. 

“I found myself trying to balance so many different roles: Waad the mother, Waad the activist, Waad the citizen journalist and Waad the director. All those people both embodied and led the story. Now I feel those different aspects of my life are what gives the film its strength,” she says.

Photo credit: Courtesy of PBS Distribution

Waad al-Kateab, director, producer and cinematographer of "For Sama"

“With Waad and Edward’s poignant storytelling and remarkable access, 'For Sama' reveals the toll of the Syrian war through the unforgettable perspective of a young mother,” FRONTLINE Executive Producer Raney Aronson-Rath says. “We are so proud to share Waad’s story with our PBS audience this fall, and extend deep gratitude to our partners at Channel 4 News, C4 and ITN Productions."

"For Sama" captures haunting stories of loss and survival, juxtaposed with moments of laughter and joy between a mother and daughter. All the while, Waad wrestles with an impossible choice – whether or not to flee Aleppo to protect her daughter’s life, when leaving means abandoning the struggle for freedom for which she has already sacrificed so much.

The result is an unforgettable, 90-minute documentary that The Hollywood Reporter calls “a harrowing first-person account of love and war,” and Film Threat calls “one of the most important films you will ever see in your life.”

Related Article: FRONTLINE’s “For Sama” Cited in U.N. Testimony on Syrian Conflict by Patrice Taddonio

Watch On Your Schedule:

Episodes of FRONTLINE become available for streaming on demand at simultaneously with each broadcast, and on the PBS Video App as well as YouTube.

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Produced by Channel 4 News/ITN Productions for Channel 4 and WGBH/FRONTLINE. The directors are Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts. "For Sama" is filmed and produced by Waad al-Kateab. The senior producer is Dan Edge (FRONTLINE). The executive producers are Raney Aronson-Rath (FRONTLINE), Ben de Pear, Nevine Mabro and Siobhan Sinnerton (Channel 4), and George Waldrum (ITN).


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