Cannes winner ‘For Sama’ — a moving and vital documentary of Aleppo’s fall

Sama pictured in September 2016, in the bombarded east of the city with a placard in response to US presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s infamous gaffe “What’s Aleppo?” (Courtesy of Channel 4, copyright Waad Al-Kateab)
Updated 03 July 2019

Cannes winner ‘For Sama’ — a moving and vital documentary of Aleppo’s fall

  • The movie won the Golden Eye Documentary Prize at Cannes
  • Filmmaker Waad Al-Khateab and her husband remained in Aleppo even after the birth of their daughter

DUBAI: At the heart of “For Sama” — the documentary about the fall of Aleppo by filmmakers Waad Al-Khateab and Edward Watts that just won the Golden Eye Documentary Prize at Cannes — is a scene that brought me to tears. Doctors are forced to perform an emergency cesarean section on a young woman who has sustained injuries from an airstrike. When the baby’s lifeless body is pulled from his mother, the doctors spend what seems like an eternity trying to save the child — pumping his heart, slapping his back, even shaking him.

In Alfonso Cuaron’s 2018 Oscar winner “Roma,” a similar scene plays out in fiction — the main character’s child is stillborn, and a long, excruciating attempt at resuscitation is unsuccessful. Watching “For Sama,” with a real life hanging in the balance, it’s hard to have hope for a better outcome. But just as you are about to force yourself to look away, to resent this film for making you watch a newborn slip from life, a miracle happens — the baby’s eyes open, he stirs to life, and cries. The mother and child are fine now, Al-Khateab, also the film’s narrator, assures us.

This newborn fighting to survive is right at home in Aleppo. Years after protests against the government began, years after extremists and airstrikes destroyed the massive Syrian city, many refused to flee. Al-Khateab explains that, in her view, abandoning their home would mean submitting to the will of a regime they aimed to resist.

Al-Khateab and her husband position themselves as activists, and that’s what unites them, even when it’s unclear what their views are, except for their rejection of both extremism and dictatorship. It’s unclear, too, when bombs are dropping over one’s head, whether one should be expected to think past that fact. Over the years that the film traces, it shows, in unflinching detail—many of those, men, women and especially children—who were lost to those bombs, soldiers. and sieges, until finally, with the city in ruins, her family were forced to flee themselves.

Sama, for whom the film is named, is Al-Khateab’s daughter, born during Aleppo’s slow crumble. The film is narrated directly to Al-Khateab’s infant — sometimes an apology, sometimes a time capsule, other times a direct justification for why they stayed so long in harm’s way with a small child. Al-Khateab, who kept her camera rolling for thousands of hours in order to capture every moment she could, believes her daughter needs to see not only the atrocities that were committed, but also the spirit of her home and its people, who clung to their city, and to their lives, until nearly the last man. The world needs to see that, too.


Sunsilk’s Color Run returns to Riyadh

‘The Happiest 5k on the Planet’ is set to turn Riyadh colorful on Oct. 26. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 9 min 3 sec ago

Sunsilk’s Color Run returns to Riyadh

  • The General Entertainment Authority is bringing The Color Run back to the Kingdom following the success of the Alkhobar event

RIYADH: The Color Run presented by Sunsilk is returning to Saudi Arabia! The countdown to “The Happiest 5k on the Planet” is on, with The Color Run bursting onto the streets of Riyadh on Oct. 26.
The event is part of the GEA’s efforts to attract top entertainment to Saudi Arabia. The Color Run — now the largest running series in the world — will be making its vibrant return to the Kingdom’s two biggest cities, with over 15,000 expected to participate in each location.
The Riyadh event follows the Kingdom’s extremely popular inaugural Color Run, which took place in Alkhobar in March and saw over 10,000 people run, jog, walk and skip their way along the 5 km course.
To date, The Color Run has been hosted in more than 40 countries with over 7 million runners participating in the event. It is untimed and sees thousands of participants covered from head to toe in an array of different colors throughout the course before collecting their medals at the finish line. The only rule is that those taking part must cross the finish line covered in color and have fun while doing it!
The non-competitive run is not only an opportunity to create perfect memories — and Instagram posts — but also serves as a celebration of health, happiness and individuality. The GEA, a core pillar under the Saudi government, is supporting the event as part of its continued efforts to enrich the lifestyle of residents as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plans and in line with the nation’s Quality of Life Program 2020.
The first of the upcoming events will be hosted as part of Riyadh Season, considered to be the biggest entertainment event in the capital city, with activities catering to sports, music, theater, fashion and much more.

FASTFACT

Tickets available at ksa.thecolorrun.com, children go free!

Ahmed Al-Mehmadi, executive director of communications at the GEA said: “We are thrilled to be bringing The Color Run presented by Sunsilk to Riyadh. We witnessed an incredible turnout in Alkhobar and we have every confidence this event will attract even more people who want to engage in a healthy activity that combines fun and exercise. Its vibrancy matches the aims of the GEA and the Quality of Life Program 2020 objectives to support and create new options that boost participation across cultural, entertainment and sports activities.”
Kristen Biegler, spokesperson for The Color Run said: “Since its inception in 2012, The Color Run has had become a global phenomenon, and we are very excited to be returning to Saudi Arabia. The response in Alkhobar was truly amazing and we are extremely excited to bring ‘The Happiest 5k on the Planet’ to Riyadh. Our top rule is that everyone has fun — it is up to you whether you run, jog, walk or even skip your way to the finish line.”
Once the 5 km is over, the fun will continue at the Finish Festival, a larger-than-life celebration equipped with music, dance-offs, fun and games and massive color throws, which create millions of vivid color combinations!