directed by Waad al-Kateab, Edward Watts
Hot Docs, the Canadian International Documentary Festival, runs April 25-May 5, 2019 at Toronto's Bloor Cinema. Visit the fest's official site for more details.
by Angelo Muredda Born out of student journalist Waad al-Kateab's first-person video diary of the early days of the uprising against the Assad regime in Aleppo, For Sama is a startling document of how everything from parenting to the concept of home to the myriad forms of political resistance available to the young and idealistic is rendered uncanny by life under wartime. Co-directed by al-Kateab and Edward Watts, the film is both a daring work of frontline reportage and an appropriately anxious time-capsule message left to be discovered at some later date by al-Kateab's daughter, who is born during the conflict and whose future is ever-threatened by the precarious political status of her parents in the besieged city.
Though al-Kateab's formal conceit of dedicating the footage to her daughter and presenting the piece as something to be inherited whenever she is ready to take it on at first feels somewhat conventional, the gambit ultimately pays off, making us attend to the ways in which she and the people around her are transformed over the course of the footage. Al-Kateab's most prized medium here is time. The sheer scope of her footage, which starts in 2012--when her future husband is introduced as a friend and one of the last doctors left in Aleppo, and when her future co-rebels are still idealistic architecture and economics students--and ends in 2016, allows her to notice, without having to editorialize about it, the way surviving a siege transforms a person's relationship to time, changing the future from a given to something that has to be fought for with every breath. Programme: International Spectrum