Syrian Documentaries Are Stirring Major Oscar Buzz

Two films have officially been shortlisted

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The Oscars are around the corner. And after a few years of being clouded by controversy (The #OscarsSoWhite movement highlighted the Academy’s lack of inclusivity), it seems like things are looking up. Alongside many others, Arab films are finally being recognized by the Academy. 

Having just unveiled the 2020 Oscars shortlist for nine of its 29 categories, a total of four categories have Arab films as contenders. 

Up for a nomination in the Documentary Feature category are two Syrian films. The critically-acclaimed documentary ‘For Sama’, directed by Waad Al-Kateab and Edward Watt, is in the running—and probably has a good chance at scoring a nomination. 

The powerful, devastating documentary was shot over the course of five years in Aleppo, documenting Al-Kataeb’s life. The film sees her fall in love, get married and give birth to Sama. It’s an intimate (and rarely-seen) look at what it’s like to live in the midst of war.

Feras Fayyad’s ‘The Cave’ is also on the shortlist for Best Documentary Feature. If the film scores a nomination, it would mark Fayyad’s second to-date (his first nomination was awarded for his gripping documentary ‘Last Men in Aleppo’). 

For ‘The Cave’ Fayyad tells the story of Amani Ballour, a paediatrician working in a makeshift hospital in Eastern Ghouta. Risking her life, Ballour stayed in her war-torn town to provide medical aid to the people. 

In the Live Action Short Film Oscar category, Tunisian filmmaker Meryam Joobeur is on the shortlist for her film ‘Brotherhood’. The film is centered around a Tunisian man who returns to his homeland with a Syrian wife that wears the niqab. The man is faced with familial suspicion that he had been secretly fighting for ISIS, igniting tensions between the couple, and the family.

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