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For Sama (2019)—SyriaFor Sama (2019)—Syria

This war movie from Syria, which is also a heart-breaking love story, has made all sorts of movie history for the sheer number of awards that it has won: 59 wins and 42 nominations, according to IMDB, including best documentary at Cannes, and a nomination for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards. Waad al-Kateab was an eighteen-year-old economics student at the University of Aleppo when the uprising against Assad's government broke out there in 2011. As a rebel in the resistance movement, she fell in love with Hamza Al-Kateab, one of just thirty-two doctors left in Aleppo (Syria's largest city). They married, and had a baby girl named Sama, whom we meet in the first minute of the movie. As a document of the war, and a testament to her newborn daughter, al-Kateab filmed the merciless, six-month siege of Aleppo in 2016, when the Syrian government, with help from Russia, bombed the city into oblivion. The UNHCR has said that "crimes of historic proportions" were committed during the siege. "What a life I've brought you into," says al-Kateab to Sama. "You did not choose this. Will you ever forgive me? Sama, I made this film for you." Should they stay in Aleppo in order to fight for liberation and serve the needy, or should they flee for the safety of their new born Sama? I watched this movie on the PBS Frontline website; it is also available on Amazon Prime.

Dan Clendenin:

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