Two films by Syrian directors – ‘For Sama’ and ‘The Cave’ – received nods in the 92nd Oscars in the Documentary Feature category, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences revealed on Monday 13 January.
The two films are the only Syrian entries to the Documentary Feature category and the only Oscar nominations received by Syrian directors across all categories.
For Sama is directed by Waad Al-Kateab, and Edward Watts.
According to IMDb, For Sama is both an intimate and epic journey into the female experience of war. The short review posted on Rotten Tomatoes adds that For Sama is "a love letter from a young mother to her daughter. [The film] tells the story of Waad Al-Kateab's life through five years of the uprising in Aleppo, Syria as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth to Sama, all while cataclysmic conflict rises around her. Her camera captures incredible stories of loss, laughter and survival as Waad wrestles with an impossible choice – whether or not to flee the city to protect her daughter's life, when leaving means abandoning the struggle for freedom for which she has already sacrificed so much."
The film has already garnered over 40 awards at renowned international festivals and has been nominated for 30 other awards. The wins include Best Director, Best British Independent Film, Best Documentary and Best Editing at the British Independent Film Awards 2019; a Golden Eye at the Cannes Film Festival 2019; Best European Documentary at the European Film Awards 2019; and the Audience Award at the Munich Film Festival 2019.
Earlier this month, the filmmakers announced that “For Sama leads BAFTA non-fiction awards with four nominations – including Outstanding British Film – making it the most nominated documentary ever in BAFTA history.”
Al-Kateab is a Syrian producer and director known for television documentary series Frontline (2019), This Morning television series (2019) and a TV special titled The 2019 European Film Awards (2019).
Al-Kateab is the first Syrian filmmaker to win an International Emmy Award for her reportage focusing on the 2016 siege of Aleppo, which was produced for Channel Four News.
The Cave is directed by Feras Fayyad, who is also the film’s co-writer (together with Alisar Hasan).
Feras Fayyad is a Syrian director, writer, producer, cinematographer, and editor. He was the first Oscar-nominated Syrian director for his war documentary Last Men in Aleppo (2017). Though the film did not win an Oscar in the Best Documentary Feature (2018), it has garnered almost 30 awards from many international festivals.
The Cave is Fayyad’s most recent documentary. The film’s brief on IMDb reads: “Amidst air strikes and bombings, a group of female doctors in Ghouta, Syria struggle with systemic sexism while trying to care for the injured using limited resources.”
The Cave has already won nine awards at numerous international festivals, including: Grolsch People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival 2019; an Audience Award and Harrell Award - Special Mention at the Camden International Film Festival 2019; and the Critics' Choice Documentary Awards 2019 for the Best Director and the Most Compelling Living Subject of a Documentary.
A total of 159 films have been submitted to the Documentary Feature category, with 15 making it to the shortlist. The final nominations are: The Cave, For Sama, American Factory, The Edge of Democracy, and Honeyland.
Other films that made it to the shortlist announced last December but did not make it to the final list include Advocate, The Apollo, Apollo 11, Aquarela, The Biggest Little Farm, The Great Hack, Knock Down the House, Maiden, Midnight Family, and One Child Nation.
This year, the voters are 8,469 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. They include actors, directors, film editors, hairstylists, visual effects specialists, score composers, and members of the marketing and public relations departments of the cinema field, among many others.
The Awards ceremony will take place on 10 February 2020.
footer Photo: still from The Cave