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)
Running time
100 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Syria[1]
Box office$662,221[2][3]

For Sama (Arabic: إلى سماء‘ilā Samā‘) is a 2019 documentary film directed and narrated by Waad Al-Kateab, and produced by Al-Kateab and Edward Watts. The film focuses on Waad Al-Kateab's journey as the wife of Hamza Al-Kateab, one of the few doctors left in Aleppo, as 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 of the uprising in Aleppo, Syria. An 18-year-old marketing student when the uprising began in 2011, she falls in love and gives birth to Sama whilst conflict begins to engulf the city. She and her husband, a doctor, 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 100% based on 60 reviews, with an average rating of 9.18/10. 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 91 out of 100, based on 15 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]

It has received criticism for being partisan (the filmmakers are supporters of the anti-Assad Syrian opposition).

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 was granted "L'oeil d'or", the best documentary movie award in Cannes Film Festival in 2019.[16][17]

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.[18][19]

The documentary was nominated for an Oscar at the 92nd Academy Awards in the Documentary Feature category.[20][21][22]

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.
  9. ^ "For Sama". Metacritic.
  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; Lodge, Guy (2019-05-01). "Film Review: 'For Sama'". Variety. Retrieved 2019-09-20.
  14. ^ Wiseman, Andreas; 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. ^ "« Pour Sama », le massacre des innocents à Alep" (in French). 2019-10-08. ISSN 0242-6056. Retrieved 2019-10-10.
  17. ^ "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.
  18. ^ Stewart Clarke (December 1, 2019). "'David Copperfield,' 'For Sama,' Renee Zellweger Win at British Independent Film Awards". Variety.
  19. ^ Jeremy Fuster (December 1, 2019). "'For Sama,' Renee Zellweger Win Big at British Independent Film Awards". The Wrap.
  20. ^ "Academy Unveils 2020 Oscar Shortlists". 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.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]