For Sama

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
For Sama Movie Poster Image
Powerful, intense docu about young mother's war-torn life.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 95 minutes

Parents say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Promotes courage and resistance to oppression, community, perseverance and compassion, sharing skills and resources, standing up for your beliefs.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Waad and Hamza are intelligent, generous, compassionate. Hamza and friends start a hospital, and Waad records events and shares them via social media to help viewers around the world know what's happening in Aleppo. They both love their daughter and their friends fiercely. Their community of friends is supportive and encouraging.


Intense, graphic footage of real people, including children, injured, bleeding, dying, dead. People die from bombs and air strikes. People wail, scream, cry, collapse over the death of their loved ones. There are moments when it seems like people that viewers care for may be hurt, caught, or killed.


A married couple embraces, dances, comforts each other.




Waad uses a Sony camera and writes on a Dell computer.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that For Sama is an intimate documentary chronicling filmmaker Waad al-Kateab's life in Aleppo, Syria, during the country's civil war: first as a student during the Arab Spring in 2011 and then as a citizen journalist who falls in love, marries, and has a baby girl named Sama. The film is edited and narrated as a video diary for Sama to help her understand why her parents chose to stay in unthinkably dangerous conditions. (The answer? To help like-minded freedom fighters and civilians.) Expect scenes of intense, graphic, and disturbing violence, including explosions and people -- both children and adults -- who are bloody, dying, and even dead. There are also several scenes of the newly grieving; they cry, yell, and are inconsolable. In some heart-stopping moments, it seems like people are going to be caught or killed. Despite all of the very real carnage it doesn't shy away from showing, the film is thought-provoking, poignant, and educational for older teens and adults, with themes of courage, perseverance, and compassion.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Teen, 13 years old Written bykane739 November 22, 2019

Violent but Positive Messages

This Documentary film is a way to see into the Syria conflict. While very violent and depicts dead body's and bloodied people it is able to show us positiv... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bysamuel_elite April 9, 2020

Heart touching

“For Sama”, touched me and motivated me in various ways. It made me realize that what we are going through now, the corona virus is nothing in contrast with wha... Continue reading

What's the story?

FOR SAMA is the intensely personal chronicle of documentarian Waad al-Kateab's life throughout five years of the Syrian civil war. Specifically, it captures what happened in Aleppo, the ancient city where she was first a university student and then a freedom fighter, journalist, wife, and mother (her husband, Hamza, is the chief doctor of a volunteer-run hospital). The film, which was co-directed by Edward Watts, is framed like a video diary for Waad and Hamza's baby girl, Sama, so she (along with viewers) can understand why her parents stayed in Aleppo for so long, despite the increasingly dangerous siege conditions. Filmed nearly entirely via Waad's phone and hand-held digital camera, the film provides an up-close view of the tragic Syrian conflict from the perspective of everyday people.

Is it any good?

Intimately personal and powerfully universal, this brutally honest documentary is a painful but important to watch account of life during the Syrian war. The hand-held cinematography is so up close that audiences will feel like they, too, are there, running from airstrikes, mourning the deaths of friends and patients, mopping up the seemingly unending pools of blood on the makeshift hospital's floors. But Waad and Hamza's story isn't just one of sorrow and pain -- it's also one of hope, beautifully represented by their baby, Sama. It might seem unthinkable to people sitting safely in first-world countries that Waad and Hamza didn't just choose life in exile, but they were providing much-needed medical aid and citizen-journalist accounts of life in Aleppo and felt a strong duty to stay.

Audiences don't need to know the history of the Arab Spring -- or that the fight to overthrow the Assad dynasty failed -- to appreciate For Sama, because Waad begins the narration with an explanation of the conflict and why it happened. Although she mentions how Islamic extremists tried to take over the rebellion, her focus isn't on the warring anti-Assad factions but rather on her personal struggles and tragedies, mostly concentrated in the volunteer-run hospital that Hamza runs. There are some sweet and happy moments, particularly when Waad explains how she and Hamza went from friends to newlyweds, and also scenes of camaraderie. Waad and Hamza have loving, generous best friends and neighbors -- a family of five that strives for normalcy even as their young children have learned to identify different kinds of war planes and bombs falling on their beloved city. Regardless of your knowledge or opinion of the Syrian conflict, watch this extraordinary film for a thought-provoking lesson in compassion, courage, and the cost of freedom.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in For Sama. How does the impact of real-life documentary violence compare to that of fictional or stylized violence? How much violence can younger viewers handle?

  • What did you know about the Syrian civil war before watching this film? Does it make you want to learn more? How do or how can global events affect your own country?

  • Who do you consider a role model in the documentary? How do they display courage, perseverance, and compassion? Why are those important character strengths?

  • Do you think Waad and Hamza made the right decision to stay in Aleppo? What do you think you would have done?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love documentaries

Character Strengths

Find more movies that help kids build character.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate