Waad Al Kateab, Hamza Al Kateab and their daughter Sama Al Kateab pose on the red carpet at the 92nd Academy Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles. Reuters
Gulf Today Report
Among the galaxy of luminaries at the Oscar awards event was Waad Al Kateab, co-director of the nominated, Syria-set documentary "For Sama.”
The other filmmaker is Edward Watts.
She used her gown to convey a political message in Arabic.
Her war film tells the stories of loss, laughter and survival in Aleppo.
Though her film did not win the gong for best documentary, she hopes it will spotlight the horrifying, poignant plight of Syrians hit by the nine-year-old conflict in her country.
“For Sama” was nominated in the best documentary field after getting four British BAFTA nods and a prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
“I hope this is a big opportunity to shine a brighter light on the things that sadly continue to happen in Idlib and I also hope that the people of Syria will receive some hope from the success of ‘For Sama’,” she said.
“About three years ago I was in that place where I didn’t know if I would be alive or not and now I’m under all the light, just trying to tell the story,” Al Kateab said.
The film is Al Kateab’s love letter to her daughter Sama.
She provides the background narration and it involves over 500 hours of footage she filmed over five years, starting as an 18-year-old student in Aleppo witnessing the start of the uprising.
The documentary features scenes from Al Kateab’s personal life – falling in love with her friend, doctor Hamza, their wedding, and the birth of Sama – while the conflict rages on.
She started filming on a mobile phone and gradually moved onto more professional equipment, while occasionally reporting for British television from Aleppo.
The film includes life at her husband’s hospital – the only one left in the city – and families such as hers who chose to stay in the besieged city.
Al Kateab, then pregnant with her second daughter, Taima, and her family were eventually forced to leave Syria for Turkey and later London, where she joined forces with Watts to turn the hundreds of hours of video into a film.
The first edit was too hard-hitting, the filmmakers said, and needed toning down.
“It was a big responsibility to tell the world that this is still happening and we can’t let that happen again and again and again. Unfortunately, as we’re speaking now, this is still happening,” Al Kateab said.
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