This weekend saw a monumental win for the Middle East and for filmmaker Waad al-Kateab. Her documentary narrating her life and love inside a war-torn cataclysmic city was awarded the Prix L’Ceil d’Or for Best Documentary at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival.
For Sama is a gut-wrenchingly honest journey of a woman who falls in love, gets married and gives birth to her first daughter, Sama, in the war-torn, rebel-held city of Aleppo. Her camera captures incredible stories of loss, laughter and survival as she wrestles with an impossible choice – whether to flee to protect her daughter’s life, or abandon all freedom by staying.
Al-Kateab shares the award with her co-director, Edward Watts. For Sama received a standing ovation after its premiere.
The jury gave a special mention to It Must Be Heaven by Palestinian film director, Elia Suleiman, which tells the story of a comedian who escapes Palestine in search for a new home, only to draw parallels to Palestine wherever he goes.
The Cannes Palme d’Or top prize was won by Parasite, a dark comedy about a family of scammers from South Korea.
Quentino Taratino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, starring Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio failed to win the jury’s favour.
Al-Kateab’s is not the first film from the Middle East to make waves at the French film festival. Lebanese film director Nadine Labaki’s Capharnaüm received critical acclaim last year and went on to become a box office hit. Read our interview with Nadine Labaki here.