Oscar nominees turn footage smuggled out of Syria into ‘For Sama’

Hosted by

Waad al-Kateab filming the ruins of a building destroyed by bombing in besieged east Aleppo, October 2016. Photo courtesy of PBS Distribution/Frontline

Filmmaker Waad al-Kateab spent her early twenties living inside a besieged Syrian hospital, documenting the brutal reality -- mixed with joy and humanity -- of everyday life in Aleppo. When she was forced to flee in late 2016 with her husband and infant daughter Sama, she was determined to smuggle 12 hard drives of footage past a Syrian checkpoint. 

After al-Kateab made it out, the UK’s Channel 4 introduced her to filmmaker Edward Watts. Together they made a 90-minute video diary from more than 500 hours of footage. Al-Kateab dedicated the project to her daughter. “For Sama” is now Oscar-nominated for best documentary. 

Al-Kateab and Watts tell us about spending two years crafting “For Sama,” and the ah-ha moment that inspired the final version. 



Kim Masters


Kaitlin Parker