FRONTLINE’s “For Sama” Wins 2020 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards
Waad al-Kateab filming the ruins of a building destroyed by bombing in besieged east Aleppo in October 2016.
For Sama, the 2019 FRONTLINE documentary in collaboration with Channel 4, Channel 4 News and ITN Productions, has been honored with both a 2020 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in the International TV category, and the John Seigenthaler Prize for Courage in Reporting.
Filmed over five years of the brutal Syrian conflict by filmmaker Waad al-Kateab, For Sama captures her life in Aleppo – as she falls in love, gets married to one of the last doctors in Aleppo, becomes a mother as her city crumbled, and faces the impossible choice of whether to stay or flee.
Directed by al-Kateab and Edward Watts and narrated as a message to al-Kateab’s daughter, Sama, For Sama documents the haunting realities of the Syrian conflict — hospitals bombed, children killed, Aleppo turned to rubble — from a rare perspective: that of a mom trying to raise her baby daughter in the middle of a war zone.
The RFK Awards judges’ decision to honor For Sama in the International TV category was unanimous. In comments from the RFK provided to FRONTLINE, the judges were “left awe-struck at [this] beautiful, compelling, and emotional story from inside Syria,” and said that the film’s “potential to create positive change to advance the cause of human rights was second-to-none.”
In additional remarks, one RFK judge explained “for the first time, [they] understood the true reality of life on the ground in Aleppo — and the hope its people have tried to maintain.” Other judges spoke of “not being able to sleep after watching it both because of the horror depicted and the emotional connections the viewers felt with the people on screen.”
“I am very happy to receive this award and bring some attention to Syria at this difficult time,” says al-Kateab. “It has been a journey with this film; we met people from across the world and worked with an amazing team. I hope when this pandemic vanishes to re-meet with a better future.”
“We’re so proud to see For Sama recognized with both an RFK Award in the International TV category and to be the recipient of the John Seigenthaler Prize for Courage in Reporting,” says FRONTLINE Executive Producer Raney Aronson-Rath. “Working with Waad and Ed to make this documentary was deeply rewarding, and we’re thrilled to see such affecting and truth-seeking storytelling continue to be recognized. Congratulations to our partners at Channel 4, Channel 4 News, ITN Productions, and PBS Distribution, and thanks to WGBH and PBS for their steadfast support.”
The Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards, given annually by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, recognize outstanding reporting on human rights and social justice issues.
Earlier this year, For Sama was honored with an Academy Award nomination for Best Documentary feature as well as a Peabody Award nomination in the documentary category. Including this year’s win, FRONTLINE has earned 19 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards to date. You can read the full list of this year’s RFK winners on their website, and stream For Sama below:
For Sama (credits)