FRONTLINE’s “For Sama” Cited in U.N. Testimony on Syrian Conflict

July 30, 2019
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by Patrice Taddonio Digital Writer & Audience Development Strategist

Waad al-Kateab filming the ruins of a building destroyed by bombing in besieged east Aleppo in October 2016.

In testimony before the United Nations Security Council on July 30, the head of policy for Physicians for Human Rights cited the documentary For Sama as she discussed attacks on medical facilities and personnel in Syria.

“The widespread and systematic destruction of health facilities and the killing of hundreds of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and paramedics by Syria and its Russian allies has the apparent aim to ‘break people’s spirits,’ as one Syrian doctor put it in the powerful new documentary, For Sama,” Susannah Sirkin said.

Sirkin noted that from March 2011 through July 2019, Physicians for Human Rights documented 578 attacks on medical facilities in Syria — the vast majority of them carried out by the Syrian government and allied forces.

“When medical workers are killed, the human toll is not just their lives, but also the exponential number of people who suffer and die without medical treatment,” she said.

That reality is brought home in For Sama, a documentary directed by Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts that is in select theaters now, and that will broadcast on FRONTLINE later this fall.

A message from a young mother to her daughter, For Sama tells the story of al-Kateab’s life through five years of the Syrian conflict in rebel-held Aleppo. She falls in love with one of the last doctors remaining in the city, gets married, and gives birth to her daughter Sama — all while filming the cataclysmic conflict raging around them. The film also zeroes in on the effort to cope with the casualties at her husband’s hospital.

“People around the world — even us sometimes — start to see the dead as just numbers,” she told FRONTLINE in an interview about the making of the film. “It is different when you see death up close. The solution isn’t to not watch, but in how we react to it.”

Watch the For Sama trailer now:

Produced by Channel 4 News and ITN Productions for Channel 4 and FRONTLINE, For Sama has made a decorated run on the film festival circuit — winning the Prix L’Œil d’Or for Best Documentary at the Cannes Film Festival, the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary at the 2019 SXSW Film Festival, and the Special Jury Prize – International Feature Documentary at Hot Docs.

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