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.


Georges Chakra politicizes couture in an ode to Lebanon

Georges Chakra continuously unveils his aesthetic concepts through his couture shows during fashion weeks. (Supplied)
Updated 56 min 18 sec ago

Georges Chakra politicizes couture in an ode to Lebanon

  • The 47-piece offering was an extravagant ode to the Beirut-born designer’s home country of Lebanon, where nation-wide protests have been ongoing for the past couple of months

PARIS: Lebanese Georges Chakra presented his Spring 2020 couture collection at Paris’ Petit Palace on Monday. The 47-piece offering was an extravagant ode to the Beirut-born designer’s home country of Lebanon, where nation-wide protests have been ongoing for the past couple of months.

Lebanese Georges Chakra presented his Spring 2020 couture collection at Paris’ Petit Palace. (Supplied)

Placed on each of the guest’s seats along with the show notes was a synthetic white rose accompanied by a note that read “un rose pour la liberte,” which translates to “one rose for freedom.”

Placed on each of the guest’s seats along with the show notes was a synthetic white rose which read “one rose for freedom.” (Supplied)

The message? Fashion is an act of resistance. Chakra wanted to create the real-life looks that reflected the sophisticated and rebellious nature of Lebanese women. These included a show-stopping lineup of striking eveningwear in a burst of white, hot pink and blue color palettes.

Chakra’s brand signature combines elaborate and intricate back details coupled with modern and bold fabrics. (Supplied)

The glimmer-creating Japanese app Kirakira, which turns anything sparkly into a disco ball–like reflection of shine and shimmer, was the preferred medium for capturing Chakra’s runway today — and rightly so. There were plenty of crystal and sequin embellished pieces on the runway that will surely hit the red carpet soon. 

There were plenty of crystal and sequin embellished pieces on the runway that will surely hit the red carpet soon. (Supplied)

Standout looks included a pink, strapless satin duchesse dress that was short at the front and long at the back and boasted a violet floral print, an asymmetrical gown that featured dashes of sequins in varying hues of green, an icy blue sheath dress with an organza train and a hand-painted blue-grey gazar dress with a fan shaped neckline.

Chakra wanted to create the real-life looks that reflected the sophisticated and rebellious nature of Lebanese women. (Supplied)

You can picture his longtime client US actress Janina Gavankar looking devastating on the red carpet wearing the bright pink slit dress with a criss-cross neckline and long train. Or his new client, actress Nina Kiri, who wore one of his creations to the 2020 Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 20, in the strapless, aquamarine satin dress with a high slit.

Chakra began his work in a war-clad Beirut, after he graduated from Canada. (Supplied)

As is customary, the last look was the bridal look. The off-the-shoulder wedding dress was accessorized with a glittering emerald and diamond necklace made by Lebanese jeweler Fawaz Gruosi. In addition to the striking sartorial lineup, the necklace will also be available for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds going to Beirut’s Children's Cancer Center of Lebanon and scholarships at the Ecole Saint Vincent de Paul.