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. 


‘Glee’ star Naya Rivera missing, feared drowned

Updated 53 min 17 sec ago

‘Glee’ star Naya Rivera missing, feared drowned

LOS ANGELES: “Glee” star Naya Rivera is missing and feared drowned at a California lake, local officials said, with rescuers to continue a search for her on Thursday.

The Ventura County Sheriff’s office earlier tweeted it was looking for a “possible drowning victim” at the lake, and said a dive team was being deployed to the area.

She rented a boat on Wednesday to take her four-year-old son onto Lake Piru. (AFP)

Rivera, 33, is best known for her role as high school cheerleader Santana Lopez in “Glee,” the TV series that she starred in for six seasons.

She rented a boat on Wednesday to take her four-year-old son onto Lake Piru, northwest of Los Angeles, local media cited the County Sheriff as saying.

Another person out on the lake alerted emergency services after finding the child, alone but apparently unharmed.