For Sama

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For Sama
For Sama (2019).jpg
Directed by
Produced byWaad Al-Kateab
  • Hamza Al-Kateab
  • Sama Al-Kateab
  • Waad Al-Kateab
Music byNainita Desai
CinematographyWaad Al-Kateab
Edited byChloe Lambourne
Simon McMahon
PBS Frontline
Channel 4 News
ITN Productions
Distributed byPBS Distribution (US)
Republic Film Distribution (UK)
Release date
  • March 11, 2019 (2019-03-11) (SXSW)
  • November 19, 2019 (2019-11-19) (PBS)
Running time
100 minutes
  • Syria
  • United Kingdom
  • United States[1]
Box officeUS$1.3 million[2][3]

For Sama (Arabic: من أجل سما‘min ajl sama‘) is a 2019 documentary film produced and narrated by Waad Al-Kateab, and directed by Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts. The film focuses on Waad Al-Kateab's journey as a journalist and rebel in the Syrian uprising. Her husband is Hamza Al-Kateab, one of the few doctors left in Aleppo, and they raise their daughter Sama Al-Kateab during the Syrian Civil War.

The film had its world premiere at the South by Southwest festival on March 11, 2019,[4] where it won the Documentary Feature Competition's Grand Jury and Audience Awards.[5]

For Sama made history when it was nominated in four categories in the BAFTA awards, making it the most nominated documentary ever.[6] It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 92nd Academy Awards.[7]


The film shows Waad al-Kateab's life through five years in Aleppo, Syria before and during The Battle of Aleppo. An 18-year-old economics student at the University of Aleppo when the uprising began in 2011, we watch as she falls in love, gives birth to her first daughter Sama and navigates motherhood all while the conflict begins to engulf the city. She and her husband, a doctor at one of the few remaining hospitals in the city, face an agonising decision to flee to safety or stay behind to help the innocent victims of war.


  • Hamza al-Kateab
  • Sama al-Kateab
  • Waad al-Kateab


Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 99% based on 95 reviews, with an average rating of 9.00/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "As intimate as it is heartbreakingly resonant, For Sama powerfully distills the difficult choices faced by citizens of war-torn regions".[8] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 89 out of 100, based on 18 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[9]

Ian Freer of Empire, wrote "It will break your heart", and he further added, "For Sama powerfully mixes the personal and the political to thought-provoking, emotional ends. The result is one of the best documentaries of 2019".[10] David Jenkins of the Little White Lies wrote, "This tough but vital documentary depicts the savage bombardment of Aleppo from a female perspective".[11] Jordan Mintzer of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "[For Sama] The result is a series of deeply powerful images showing the human casualties of a war that most of us witnessed from our TV sets or computer screens, but that al-Kateab and her husband lived on a daily basis for many years".[12] Guy Lodge of the Variety wrote, "This ragged, remarkable act of cinematic witnessing sees a young woman finding her voice — as an activist, as an artist and as a parent — above the crashing, whistling din of warfare. Amid a surfeit of devastating reports from the ruins, it’s one we haven’t yet heard".[13]

Awards and nominations[edit]

For Sama made history by becoming the BAFTA's most-nominated feature documentary. The British Academy of Film and Television Arts announced the film has been nominated in four categories, Outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer; Outstanding British film; Best film not in the English language and Best documentary.[14][15] For Sama won multiple awards at the British Independent Film Awards in December 2019 including: best British independent film, best documentary, best director and best editing.[16][17]

For Sama was granted "L'oeil d'or", the best documentary movie award in Cannes Film Festival in 2019.[18][19] The documentary was nominated for an Oscar at the 92nd Academy Awards in the Documentary Feature category.[20][21][22]

Award Category Recipient Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Documentary Feature Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts Nominated [23][24][25]
Alliance of Women Film Journalists Best Documentary Feature Film For Sama Nominated
Austin Film Critics Association Best Documentary Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts Nominated
British Academy Film Awards Best Documentary Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts Won
Best Film Not in the English Language Nominated
Outstanding British Film Nominated
Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer Nominated
British Independent Film Awards Best Director Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts Won
Best British Independent Film Won
Best Documentary Won
Best Editing Chloe Lambourne and Simon McMahon Won
Best Music Nainita Desai Nominated
56th Guldbagge Awards Best Foreign Film Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts Won [26][27]
Independent Spirit Awards Best Documentary Feature Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts Nominated
Peabody Awards Documentary For Sama Won [28]
Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award Seigenthaler Prize For Sama Won [29]
48th International Emmy Awards Best Documentary For Sama Won [30]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "For Sama". Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  2. ^ "For Sama (2019) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  3. ^ "For Sama (2019)". Box Office Mojo.
  4. ^ "For Sama". South by Southwest. Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  5. ^ "2019 Award Winners". South by Southwest. Retrieved 16 September 2019.
  6. ^ "Syrian war documentary "For Sama" makes history with 4 British film award nominations". Arab News. 2020-01-07. Retrieved 2020-01-07.
  7. ^ Husted, Anne (13 January 2020). "For Sama Receives Academy Award® Nomination for Best Documentary Feature". FRONTLINE. PBS. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  8. ^ "For Sama (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  9. ^ "For Sama". Metacritic. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  10. ^ "For Sama". Empire. 2019-09-09. Retrieved 2019-09-20.
  11. ^ "For Sama review – A film that must be seen to be believed". Little White Lies. Retrieved 2019-09-20.
  12. ^ "'For Sama': Film Review | SXSW 2019". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2019-09-20.
  13. ^ Lodge, Guy (2019-05-01). "Film Review: 'For Sama'". Variety. Retrieved 2019-09-20.
  14. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (2020-01-07). "Syrian War Film 'For Sama' Scores Record Number Of BAFTA Nominations For A Documentary". Deadline. Retrieved 2020-01-07.
  15. ^ "Syrian war documentary "For Sama" makes history with 4 British film award nominations". Arab News. 2020-01-07. Retrieved 2020-01-07.
  16. ^ Stewart Clarke (December 1, 2019). "'David Copperfield,' 'For Sama,' Renee Zellweger Win at British Independent Film Awards". Variety.
  17. ^ Jeremy Fuster (December 1, 2019). "'For Sama,' Renee Zellweger Win Big at British Independent Film Awards". The Wrap.
  18. ^ "" Pour Sama ", le massacre des innocents à Alep". La Croix (in French). 2019-10-08. ISSN 0242-6056. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  19. ^ "Cannes 2019 : les documentaires "Pour Sama" et "La cordillère des songes" primés à l'Œil d'or". Franceinfo (in French). 2019-05-25. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  20. ^ "Academy Unveils 2020 Oscar Shortlists". The Hollywood Reporter. 16 December 2019.
  21. ^ "Oscar nominations 2020: 'Joker' leads with 11; Greta Gerwig snubbed for best director; complete list of nominees". The Washington Post. 13 January 2020. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  22. ^ "Oscars 2020 nominations: Full list of nominees including Joker, Little Women and Jojo Rabbit". Telegraph. January 13, 2020.
  23. ^ 2020 Oscar Nominations List: Academy Award Nominees — Variety
  24. ^ "American Factory" wins Best Documentary Feature-Oscars on YouTube
  25. ^ "The 92nd Academy Awards | 2020". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. February 9, 2020. Retrieved February 10, 2020.
  26. ^ "2020 års Guldbaggenomineringar!". 17 December 2020. Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  27. ^ Adelai, Amina; Farran-Lee, Lydia (25 January 2021). "Charter och Spring Uje spring tog hem de tunga priserna". SVT (in Swedish). Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  28. ^ Schneider, Michael (June 10, 2020). "'Stranger Things,' 'When They See Us,' 'Watchmen' Among This Year's Peabody Award Winners". Variety. Retrieved June 10, 2020.
  29. ^ Cho, Minhee (June 4, 2020). "Announcing the Winners of the 2020 Robert F. Kennedy Book and Journalism Awards". APNews. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
  30. ^ "2020 INTERNATIONAL EMMY® WINNERS ANNOUNCED LIVE AT CEREMONY HELD FROM NEW YORK CITY". International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Retrieved November 23, 2020.

Further reading[edit]

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