【明報專訊】In 2009, Waad al-Kateab went to Syria from Turkey as an aspiring student. Very soon, she found herself amidst the intensifying civilian uprising and relentless crackdown from the authoritarian Assad regime, assisted by the Russian air force. She started to document the everyday — while early moments of the film capture young, optimistic faces as they took to the streets to demand their freedom, the everyday soon turned into a brutal loop of air raids, navigating through bloodstained (有血迹的) streets and burying friends. Little did the people of Syria envisage that the regime would rather blaze the streets to the ground than cede to its people's demands.
Nevertheless, people were resilient in their own ways. Planting herself in a civilian hospital, Waad captured the overwhelming injuries, tackled by determined medical staff to rescue with the little resources they had. In the pockets of time between surgeries, doctors joked, told bedtime stories about air raids to their children, and attended to each other's needs. It was a spirited fight, albeit steeply uphill.
Waad soon fell in love with her doctor friend-turned-husband, whose faith in freedom and dedication to rescue remained a recurring motif of the film. Not long later, their daughter Sama (meaning sky in Arabic) was born. We first saw the little girl in the film amid smoke-filled corridors, with Waad desperately searching "where is my girl?". The documentary For Sama was Waad's attempt to show Sama what her parents have gone through and fought for. It also revealed Waad's difficult dilemma — why would she raise a child in a war-torn zone? But if she flees, what example would she be setting for her child?
For Sama observes the brutality of war through the gentle lenses of a young mother. Nevertheless, it is not for the faint-hearted who hold any romanticised notion of the culling itself. Waad's camera does not shy away from some of the plain crimes committed by the regime. Like her fellow Syrian filmmakers, she attempts to carve a window for the audience to look into one of the most brutal ongoing wars in our time. (For additional reference, check out Last Men in Aleppo, City of Ghosts, and Of Fathers and Sons). For Sama is now in the theatres. Learning about the situation may be the least we can do about the calamities of others.
Mona C. has a strong appetite for stories. Feed her enough.