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. 


Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray dedicates her rousing farewell speech to the Philippines

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray gave an emotional farewell speech dedicated to her homeland. AFP
Updated 09 December 2019

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray dedicates her rousing farewell speech to the Philippines

  • Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray crowned her successor, Miss South Africa Zozibini Tunzi, who took home the prestigious Miss Universe 2019 title
  • She ended her emotional farewell speech with a tribute to her “beloved Philippines”

DUBAI: On Sunday night, Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray crowned her successor, Miss South Africa Zozibini Tunzi, who took home the prestigious Miss Universe 2019 title.

The Philippines-bred beauty, who is part-Australian, made her final walk on the stage of Atlanta’s Tyler Perry Studios wearing a blue, feathered gown by Filipino designer Mak Tumang to thank her “beloved Philippines” in a rousing closing speech.

“I've always believed that as women we have the power to redefine our generation,” said the 25-year-old beauty during the televised event hosted by Steve Harvey. “When we raise our voices together, the words 'woman power' become more than just a phrase. They become a movement.”

She added “I wanted my year to be a reign with purpose, from advocating for quality education for all to raising awareness to HIV and AIDS. I've started to use my voice for good.” She went on to thank her mom and dad, in edition to her mentors and the Miss Universe organization.

She ended her emotional farewell speech with a tribute to her “beloved Philippines,” stating “you endlessly inspire me and give me hope.”

Gray then performed her final duty by crowning Tunzi with the US $5 million, diamond-encrusted Miss Universe 2019 diadem, which was designed by Lebanese jeweler Mouawad.

The beauty queen and humanitarian was the fourth Filipina to win Miss Universe and the second in three years, joining Gloria Diaz, who was the first Filipina to bring home the title in 1969, followed shortly by Margie Moran in 1973. 42-years later, Pia Wurtzbach would reclaim the crown in 2015.