‘For Sama’: From history-making win at British Independent Film Awards to Oscars?

For Sama,” which chronicle’s one woman’s experiences in the Syrian civil war, won big at the British Independent Film Awards on December 1. It is the first documentary to be named Best Film at the BIFAs. “For Sama” also picked up three other prizes: Best Director (Waad Al-Khateab and Edward Watts), Best Editing (Chloe Lambourne and Simon McMahon) and, not surprisingly, Best Documentary.

While the the movie was made for Channel 4 and PBS (it recently aired on Frontline) it has been submitted to the Oscars. The ongoing crisis in Syria was the subject of two recent Academy Awards nominees for Best Documentary: “Of Father and Sons” (2019) and “Last Men in Aleppo” (2018).

For Al-Khateab, “An Oscar would give us the chance to make people want to see our film. The award would be amazing because I would have more platforms to share this story with many other people all over the world, and because it’s a Syrian film the whole world is really numbed about what’s happening.” 

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The film is not an easy watch although it is an important one depicting a subject that is curiously, somehow, being increasingly swept under the carpet. For Al-Khateab, it wasn’t an easy shoot, either, lasting almost five years using only one camera with minimal equipment. It was undoubtedly a shoot that required the utmost dedication, one that risked near-death experiences around every corner.

Even before making history at the BIFAs as the first documentary to win Best Film, “For Sama” had garnered considerable attention. Double Oscar champ Cate Blanchett is a champion for the film. Al-Khateab describes her as a “true human being” who has hosted screenings for friends and voters.

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