Two short-listed Syrian documentaries await final Oscar nominations
Ahram Online, , Friday 3 Jan 2020
Both films - For Sama and The Cave - were submitted to the Documentary Feature category of the 92nd Academy Awards


Two films from Syria – For Sama and The Cave – are awaiting the nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards in the Documentary Feature category, having made it to the 15-film shortlist, announced last month.

The voting for the final list of nominees began on 2 January and continues through 7 January, with results to be revealed on 13 January.

For Sama is directed by Syrian Waad Al-Kateab, and tells the story of her experience falling in love and raising her daughter as the war rages in Aleppo.

Al-Kateab is the first Syrian filmmaker to win an International Emmy Award, for her reportage that focuses on the 2016 siege of Aleppo and which was produced for Channel Four News.

The short review of For Sama posted on Rotten Tomatoes says that the film 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 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 an Audience Award at the Munich Film Festival 2019.

The Cave is directed by Feras Fayyad, who wrote the film along with Alisar Hasan.

Fayyad is a Syrian director, writer, producer, cinematographer, and editor who was Oscar-nominated in 2018 for his war documentary Last Men in Aleppo (2017), the first Syrian director to be so. Although the film did not win the Oscar, 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 won nine awards at international festivals including: the 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 Award at the Critics' Choice Documentary Awards 2019 for the Best Director and the Most Compelling Living Subject of a Documentary.

A total of 159 films were submitted to the Oscars’ Documentary Feature category, with 15 making it to the shortlist. They include Advocate, American Factory, The Apollo, Apollo 11, Aquarela, The Biggest Little Farm, The Edge of Democracy, The Great Hack, Honeyland, Knock Down the House, Maiden, Midnight Family, and One Child Nation.

The Academy Awards ceremony will take place on 10 February.

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