SYRIA: A painful documentary infused with the occasional breath of poetry and beauty from Aleppo.
Dieter Wieczorek
Wieczorek is a film critic and regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
Published date: May 30, 2019

A documentary usually addresses a worldwide audience, but in rare cases, it can be simply a letter written to one specific person. Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts decided to choose the second option as the form for their work. Waad al-Kateab’s commentaries are all addressed to her newborn daughter Sama, who is, of course, also a symbol of the next generation and to a future in their country. Simultaneously, For Sama lets everyone know of the reality behind the curtain of official media information: continual attacks on Aleppo, eventually leading to the total destruction of parts of the city. On a personal level, the question of responsibility, also of guilt, is evoked concerning Waad al-Kateab’s decision to stay at the side of her husband, one of the last doctors and surgeons to still resist and work.


The film is generally chronological but also integrates flashbacks from past years, moments still characterized by hope and excitement for the future. The sharp contrasts between the different time periods let the spectator perceive in just how short a time the situation completely degraded to the systematic extermination of the population. Among other detailed information, we learn that the Russian airstrikes were especially targeted at hospitals, destroying 8 out of 9, with the aim being to break the spirit of the rebellion.

Waad al-Kateab reveals her daily life in a very personal way, from her beloved garden to the floors of the hospital, completely covered in blood, where dead and wounded bodies lie side by side toward the end phase of the attacks. For personal safety, Al-Kateab lived with her child in a small room inside the hospital, protected by sandbags against bullets. Only rarely did she see her overworked husband. Her main goal was to let her child understand and maybe even accept, at some point in the future, her reasons for remaining in this permanently life-threatening situation. Filming gives her a reason to be here, to document what the remaining hospital staff and the resistance, in general, are fighting for. She also …

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