Channel 4 News film on Syrian civil war becomes most-nominated documentary in Bafta history

Channel 4 News documentary For Sama by filmmaker Waad Al-Kateab about her life under siege in Syria has been nominated for four Baftas – the most of any documentary in the British awards’ history.

The film has picked up nominations in the Outstanding British Film, Documentary, Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, and Film not in the English Language award categories.

Al-Kateab directed the documentary alongside Edward Watts. She also wrote and narrated it in her native Arabic.

In a joint statement, Al-Kateab and Watts said: “It is such an honour to be nominated for a prestigious Bafta award, but to be nominated in four different categories is simply overwhelming.

“We hope For Sama gives audiences some sense of the brutal repression and humanitarian crisis in Syria which continues to this day.”

Al-Kateab’s video dispatches for Channel 4 News from the last hospital in Aleppo as regime bombs ravaged the city in 2016 were watched by millions, providing coverage at a time when it was too dangerous for Western journalists to enter the country.

She fled Syria in 2016 and claimed asylum in the UK where she worked with Channel 4 News to cut For Sama from more than 300 hours of footage. The Sama of the title is Al-Kateab’s first child, born in Syria.

The film spans five years from the first hopeful protests against Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad in 2011 as the Arab Spring took hold in the country through to the sacking of Aleppo by regime forces in 2016.

Nevine Mabro, executive producer of For Sama and deputy editor of Channel 4 News, said earning four Bafta nominations was an “incredible achievement for a young woman who just three years ago we feared would not make it out of Aleppo alive”.

She added: “We have worked hard to find and develop diverse talent and these array of nominations are hugely encouraging for young women filmmakers everywhere.”

For Sama has already won best documentary at the Cannes Film Festival and made the longlist of films in contention for the Documentary Feature award at this year’s Oscars.

Al-Kateab spoke with Press Gazette earlier this year. “If this footage wasn’t taken, these stories all die and that’s it,” she said of the film.

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