by Caspar Henderson
Some vital and important films are almost unbearable to watch and yet utterly compelling. A good example is 12 Years a Slave, a drama closely based on a true story, which was recently ranked second in a Guardian list of the 100 best films of the 21st century.
For Sama, a film by the Syrian film-maker Waad al-Kateab which documents the siege and destruction of Aleppo and the fate of her family, also falls in this category.
For Sama is a true story, told by the protagonists themselves, of courage, love and defiance in some of the most terrible circumstances imaginable.
It also holds up a light to all of us in Europe, particularly, who would rather look away. It affirms some vital lessons about what makes a good human being, and asks us to look closely at our responsibilities and evasions.
The film critic Mark Kermode gives a good sense of what makes the film so powerful in this review. An aspect is:
simple human interactions that really hit home – the day-to-day comradeship of women stoically preparing food while fire falls from the sky; the resilience of children who still smile and play even as their lives are threatened.
For what it’s worth (and I know it’s not much), I will be button-holing almost every one know about this film, both while it is on general release and beyond, when, I hope, it continues to be broadcast on television and is made widely available online.
Almost incredibly, there is hope in For Sama. As Hamza al-Kateab, the doctor who marries Waad, says near the beginning:
The road ahead is full of danger and fear, but at the end of it lies freedom. We will walk it together.
More information about For Sama, including UK screening times and locations, can be found here
Caspar Henderson is an Associate at Perspectiva
Image: Aleppo, March 2013. Credit: Basma. Open Government License via wiki