For Sama was by far the best film I saw in 2019. Waad al-Kateab, a 26-year old female, and Syrian filmmaker created a shocking look into the world that many of Americans are out of touch with. The documentary exposes the life within a city in the heart of an uprising between the Syrian government and the citizens of Aleppo. Waad takes us years through the struggle of stalemates, air strikes, and keeping her loved ones alive.
There are none other words besides bravely shot that can describe the commitment that went into creating this documentation of recent world history. Not only was this filmed on location primarily in Aleppo, but the images the crew was forced to shoot are not only horrific, but heartbreakingly real. It’s as if we must see the dead one by one and in detail in order to empathize and take action for them. Death is the most shocking form of change, and we see that in the transition the city goes through.
It’s hard to see the beauty of Aleppo through the lens of the American media. These people halfway across the world don’t become people anymore, they become a number for a death toll in another city that is being exploited and oppressed by their government drowned out by the cries of all the others. Waad bridges the gap between us and them. We see her friends and family love, laugh, grow, get married, have babies all through absolute hell. It made me as a millennial American feel like I have no excuse to not take advantage of every privileged opportunity.
After the credits rolled, a very American woman started the talk back, in which she asked us to write down how the film made us feel. Although, I would have loved to hear from another Syrian perspective, I actually enjoyed the time to reflect on what I had just witnessed. I had shock of the Destruction, admiration for their pride, and loyalty to one another. Many people recounted that the documentary made them feel sad, shocked, but what really stuck out is useless. There were some audience members who believed that regardless of what they viewed, there’s nothing they can do.
As Americans, we have everyday access to networks they connect around the world and most importantly to the change makers of our country. There is power in privilege, and if more people thought about how to use their tools to serve a larger good, they would see the never-ending chance to change. After seeing For Sama, I imagined what I was doing during the span of this uprising. I think of all the classes I took and places I went, and wonder would it have made a difference if we were all more internationally aware. As hectic as the world news cycle gets, this screening made me give it a chance to teach me something new.