Channel 4 and PBS Frontline's "FOR SAMA" wins Top Documentary Award at SXSW Film Festival

Documentary feature grand jury prize went to “For Sama” directed by Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts


Channel 4

“FOR SAMA” won the Documentary Feature Competition at the South by Southwest Film Festival Awards in the US on Tuesday night.

Directed by Emmy award-winning Channel 4 News filmmaker, Waad al-Kateab and Emmy-award winning filmmaker Edward Watts, For Sama, is an intimate, visceral feature documentary about the female experience of war during the uprising in Aleppo, Syria.

Produced by Channel 4 News and ITN Productions, For Sama is told as a message from a young Syrian mother Waad al-Kateab to her daughter, and traces Waad’s life through five years of the uprising in Aleppo as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth while apocalyptic conflict rises around her

Waad’s camera captures incredible stories of loss, laughter and survival as she wrestles with an impossible choice – whether or not to flee the city to protect her daughter’s life, when leaving means abandoning the struggle for freedom for which she has already sacrificed so much.

Waad said: “This is not just a film for me, it’s my life, my greatest loss, my greatest happiness. It is everything I struggled for and dreamt of, my duty to the city I belong to and a message to my daughter Sama.”

Edward said: “This is the most important film I have ever worked on. Waad, Hamza, Sama and their friends are extraordinary, courageous people, an example to us all in these days of great tumult in the world.

The intimate 94-minute feature-length film, which held its world premiere at the Texas-based festival, is the first feature documentary by Emmy award-winning filmmakers, Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watts. It is funded by Channel 4 in the UK and PBS Frontline in the States.

South by Southwest judges said: “This extraordinary and harrowing documentary captures an epic personal story of a mother’s love for her daughter and a wife’s love for her husband through the lens of the bloody and brutal siege of Aleppo.”

Katie Walsh, a judge on the Documentary Feature Competition category tweeted: “We gave our Grand Jury prize to the harrowing yet tender love story For Sama. Stunning footage from inside one of Aleppo’s last standing hospitals during the 2016 siege. Utterly gorgeous, moving filmmaking.”

The SXSW Film annual Festival celebrates raw innovation and emerging talent both behind and in front of the camera.

Hollywood Reporter film review: “Among the many activists who have documented the civil war in Syria, the story of 26-year-old Waad al-Kateab is perhaps one of the most remarkable.”



Directed by: Waad al-Kateab & Edward Watts

Filmed & Produced by: Waad al-Kateab

Edited by: Chloe Lambourne & Simon McMahon

Executive Producers: Ben de Pear, Dan Edge, Nevine Mabro, Raney Aronson-Rath, Siobhan Sinnerton, George Waldrum

Production Companies: Channel 4 News, ITN Productions for Channel 4 and PBS Frontline

Waad al-Kateab is a Syrian journalist and filmmaker who works for Channel 4 News in the UK. In January 2016 she began documenting the horrors of Aleppo in a series of films titled “Inside Aleppo.” The reports she made on the conflict in Syria became the most watched pieces on the British news program, received almost half a billion views online, and won 24 awards, including the 2016 International Emmy for breaking news coverage. She and her family were eventually evacuated from Aleppo in 2016. “For Sama” is her first feature film.

Edward Watts is an Emmy award-winning, BAFTA nominated filmmaker who has directed over 20 documentary films for international broadcasters including the BBC, Channel 4 and PBS in America.

Source Channel 4

March 14, 2019 11:00am ET by Channel 4  


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