Baftas 2020: Why this documentary maker’s speech will leave you in tears

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Megan Murray
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Waad Al-Kateab took to the stage at last night’s BAFTAs to accept her award for Best Documentary, and to share a powerful message.

For Sama was filmed over five years throughout the conflict in the Syrian city of Aleppo. The documentary gives a real, painful view into the experience of war from a uniquely female perspective.

It shows the terror and panic of constant bombing and an uncertain uprising in the city, contrasted with Syrian journalist Waad Al-Kateab’s blossoming relationship, as she falls in love with her now husband Hamza, and gives birth to her daughter Sama.

The documentary sees Al-Kateab make the difficult choice to flee the city to protect her young family, and therefore abandon the struggle she’s already sacrificed so much for. 

But although Al-Kateab has left the war physically (she now lives in the UK with her husband and two children) she is committed to standing with those who are still fighting, a message she was keen to tell the BAFTA audience. 

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Standing on stage in front of her peers to accept Best Documentary, Al-Kateab was overcome with emotion as she said: “Thank you so much. First, thank you and congratulations for all the other nominees. Now, almost one year of releasing the film, we’ve become also friends.”

As she became tearful, she took a moment for herself before continuing to explain some of the terrifying circumstances that she found herself in as she made the documentary: “Erm… Sorry again. The film was… we should’ve been in here… in one moment in 2016, three years ago, we were in Aleppo and we were in a basement of a filled hospital. Hamza, me and Sama and we were hearing the shelling and the bombing all the time around us.

“In one moment in 2016 when I was in contact with Channel 4 News and we even thought where we should bury our footage in case we didn’t make it. This needed to be saved.

Although there were times when she feared for her life, Al-Kateab said with pride “we did the film”, before expressing how glad and honoured she is to win the award. 

But although the awards were a triumph for the young documentary maker, who was also nominated in three other categories, her speech was far from carefree as she reminded the audience that “the situation in Syria is still so bad.”

“As we’re speaking there is bombing and shelling on over 3.5 million civilians. These people they should hear your voice now, they should hear that Britain as a country, as a great country, won’t let that happen again,” Al-Kateab galvanised. 

“I know it’s so hard but this award I would dedicate it to the great Syrian people who are still suffering today. The great heroes of doctors, nurses, civil defence, so many other volunteer. I dedicate this award for them.”

As she drew her speech to a close, she had one powerful request to all those listening: “Let them hear your voice .”

If you haven’t seen the film yet, it is still showing in select cinemas around the country and you can watch it for free on All 4

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Images: Getty Images


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Megan Murray

Megan Murray is a senior digital writer for, who enjoys writing about homeware (particularly candles), travel, food trends, restaurants and all the wonderful things London has to offer.

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