“For Sama”: Syrian Film is a Love Letter to a Daughter Born Into War
FOR THE MAJORITY of Western audiences, the region known as “the Middle East” is conceived as a vast swath of constant and inscrutable chaos. In this imagination, diverse conflicts, insurgencies, and civilian revolutions are flattened into a single horrorscape, represented by ubiquitous images of billowing smoke and colorless destruction. Violence, it would appear, is endemic to the region, as natural and inevitable as the endless, hostile desert.
This lack of historicity — and subsequent denial of responsibility — can be partly blamed on Western media that rewards sensationalist, reductionist headlines over nuance. Meanwhile, many residents of the region, including those living in conflict zones, are denied any semblance of free, accurate media coverage, with local mainstream outlets trafficking in government propaganda. In both scenarios, the voices of “ordinary” citizens are deplorably, and dangerously, absent.
This dual shortfall is what filmmakers Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts sought to remedy in their new documentary “For Sama,” which opens this weekend in some cities, and which will air later on Frontline PBS. The film’s poster plays with stereotype: a woman stands against a backdrop of wrecked buildings and rubble. Her stoic face and dismal surroundings evoke routine associations of tragedy, yet the image contains an unexpected detail: An infant girl, fresh-faced and wide-eyed, gazes up from the carrier strapped to her mother’s chest. She is the eponymous Sama, al-Kateab’s firstborn, whose birth and early years frame a film that is once a maternal love letter and the story of a revolution. “Sama, I’ve made this film for you,” says al-Kateab in a voiceover. “I need you to understand what we were fighting for.” [Read More at The Intercept]