Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts and Face2Face host David Peck talk about their new film For Sama, Syria and justice, the strength of the human spirit, acts of resistance and a better future.
Playing at Hot Docs 2019
For Sama is an intimate feature documentary that takes the form of a letter from Waad al-Kateab, a 26-year old Syrian mother, to her daughter Sama recorded in the last days of the battle for Aleppo, Syria.
Waad’s story begins in 2012 when she was a student studying marketing at Aleppo University. Protests against the brutal dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad reach the university and Waad is one of the first to join. Her camera captures the joy and optimism of those early days.
She meets a young medic in the protests called Hamza and with a group of friends they continue to demand freedom even as the regime resorts to greater and greater violence to crush them, eventually engulfing the city in full-blown war.
Eventually, they are overwhelmed and forced into exile. In the exodus, the family pack their things and with tears in their eyes, bid farewell to the shattered city, the place where their dream of freedom was born and where it died. Yet they carry their daughter with them, an eternal symbol of the love and hope that the violence of tyrants cannot destroy.
For more info on the film head here.
About the Directors:
In January 2016 Waad al-Kateab started documenting the horrors of Aleppo for Channel 4 News in a series of devastating films simply titled Inside Aleppo. The reports she made for Channel 4 News on the conflict in Syria, and the most complex humanitarian crisis in the world, became the most watched pieces on the UK news programme – and received almost half a billion views online and won 24 awards – including the 2016 International Emmy for breaking news coverage.
Waad was a marketing student at the University of Aleppo when protests against the Assad regime swept the country in 2011. Like many hundreds of her fellow Syrians, she became a citizen journalist determined to document the horrors of the war.
She taught herself how to film – and started filming the human suffering around her as Assad forces battled rebels for control of Aleppo. She stayed through the devastating siege – documenting the terrible loss of life and producing some of the most memorable images of the six-year conflict. When she and her family were evacuated from Aleppo in December 2016 she managed to get all her footage out.
Waad lives in London with her husband and two daughters.
Edward Watts is an Emmy award-winning, BAFTA nominated filmmaker who has directed over twenty narrative and documentary films that tell true stories of courage, heroism and humour from across the world, covering everything from war crimes in the Congo to the colourful lives of residents in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.
His 2015 film Escape from ISIS exposed the brutal treatment of the estimated 4 million women living under the rule of the Islamic State and, for the first time on television, told the extraordinary story of an underground network trying to save those it can. It received numerous international awards and citations, including an International Emmy and Bafta nomination for Best Current Affairs Documentary.
Edward’s film making aspires to tell visceral, gripping stories about people who live in far flung corners of the world, to emphasise our common humanity to audiences back home. In so doing, he hopes his films can make a positive contribution to reducing the hatred in our tumultuous world. He has an eye for the unexpected: the intimacy found even in the bleakest places; the stories of hope amid horror. He creates films on a strong foundation of riveting narrative story telling and striking, cinematic images.
Image: Copyright Waad al-Kateab and ITN Productions Inc. Used with permission.
Theme Music: Copyright David Peck & Face2Face. Used with permission.
For more information about David Peck’s podcasting, writing and public speaking please visit his site here.
With thanks to Josh Snethlage and Mixed Media Sound.