Syrian documentary ‘For Sama’ sweeps British Independent Film Awards

"For Sama" won the top prize at the 2019 British Independent Film Awards. Supplied
Updated 03 December 2019

Syrian documentary ‘For Sama’ sweeps British Independent Film Awards

  • The Waad Al-Khateab and Edward Watts directed documentary took home four prizes at the annual awards ceremony
  • It beat out the acclaimed Charles Dickens-inspired movie, “The Personal History of David Copperfield" for the top prize

DUBAI: Congratulations are in order for Emmy award-winning filmmakers Waad Al-Khateab and Edward Watts, who took home the top prize — Best Film — at the British Independent Film Awards (BIFA) on Sunday for their profoundly moving documentary “For Sama.”

The film beat out a lineup of acclaimed features, including Armando Ianucci's Charles Dickens-inspired movie, “The Personal History of David Copperfield” starring Dev Patel, Joanna Hogg’s “The Souvenir,” the 2018 musical drama “Wild Rose” and Mark Jenkin’s feature “Bait.”

“So happy and honored to receive a great recognition of three awards,” wrote Al-Khateab on her official Twitter account.

The moving documentary, which tells the story of a young mother's experience of the Syrian civil war, swept the evening, also winning the Best Director, Best Documentary and Best Editing awards.

Sama, for whom the film is named, is the name of Al-Khateab and her husband Hamza’s young daughter, who was born during Aleppo’s siege and lived through it for the first year of her life before the three of them were forced to flee. 

Al-Khateab first began to publish footage to show the world what was happening in Aleppo, before starting work with Channel 4 News in the UK in 2015.

“When I left (Syria), (Channel 4) asked me, ‘Do you have more footage of what you did for the news?’ I told them I had 12 hard drives worth of footage. They asked me to edit, and so I sat with (co-director) Edward Watts, and we watched everything, and thought about how we could do this. It was a very long process with multiple parties,” Al-Khateab previously shared with Arab News.

Unflinching in its footage, the documentary, which was two years in the making, features often-horrifying visuals of the people of Aleppo mortally wounded, in distress, dead and dying.

Al-Khateab and her collaborators constantly grappled with the ethics of screening such disturbing images. Ultimately, they felt it was too important not to show.

“What you see in the film is really a fraction of what Al-Khateab filmed and what happened in Aleppo,” Watts said to Arab News.

The BIFA’s aren’t the only awards ceremony to recognize the unignorable impact of the Syrian war portrait. Memorably, it took home the Prix L’Œil d’Or for Best Documentary at the Cannes Film Festival 2019. 


Quoz Arts Fest returns to Alserkal Avenue featuring regional talents

Quoz Arts Fest is held on Jan. 24 and 25 in the UAE’s Alserkal Avenue. (Supplied)
Updated 24 January 2020

Quoz Arts Fest returns to Alserkal Avenue featuring regional talents

  • During the festival, visitors will be able to bring their creative designs to life on stone or camel leather at the high-end footwear brand Tamashee’s workshop
  • The program includes a free concert by Jordanian-Palestinian band 47Soul, the exhibition “New National Dish: UAE,” Reel Palestine Film Festival screenings, a contemporary dance performance by Sima Dance Company, and much more

DUBAI: More than 60 creatives will lead the two-day Quoz Arts Fest held on Jan. 24 and 25 in the UAE’s Alserkal Avenue, which will feature exhibitions, live music, contemporary dance performances, food trucks, outdoor art installations, film screenings, and educational seminars.

During the festival, visitors will be able to bring their creative designs to life on stone or camel leather at the high-end footwear brand Tamashee’s workshop, which explores the “contemporary application of ancient art and Arabian scripts of the Peninsula.”

Visitors will be able to bring their creative designs to life on stone or camel leather at the high-end footwear brand Tamashee’s workshop. (Supplied)

Tamashee, owned by Saudi entrepreneur Muneera Al Tamimi and Emirati Mohammed Kazim, will give visitors a chance to participate in a 12,000-year-old form of expression at heir activation wall, inspired by their “1441 H” collection, which references archeology, rock art, and ancient inscriptions of the Arabian Peninsula.

In its eighth edition, the festival explores the theme “In Search Of…,” with special programs including a free concert by Jordanian-Palestinian band 47Soul, the exhibition “New National Dish: UAE,” Reel Palestine Film Festival screenings, a contemporary dance performance by Sima Dance Company, and much more.

47Soul, who will take the stage in The Yard, on Jan. 24, combines traditional Dabke music with electronic beats. The band is best-known for creating the Shamstep, a combination of mijwiz–a Levantine folk musical style– and dubstep.

47Soul, who will take the stage in The Yard, on Jan. 24, combines traditional Dabke music with electronic beats. (Supplied)

The “New National Dish: UAE” exhibition presents four imagined proposals for a new Emirati national dish, based on the environmental, economic and social impacts of climate change.

Visitors to the exhibition will get to try the food and discuss the future of popular dishes.

The “New National Dish: UAE” exhibition presents four imagined proposals for a new Emirati national dish, based on the environmental, economic and social impacts of climate change. (Supplied) 

The contemporary dance performance Ansaf, set to take place on Jan. 24, is created by acclaimed Palestinian choreographer Alaa Krimed and explores questions and concepts facing the Arab world.