Three Powerful and Informative Syrian Documentaries to Watch

War in Syria has devastated the lives of thousands of people and impacted countries around the world. Many have experienced and are continuing to experience this firsthand, while for others it’s something they’ve only read or heard about.

If you’re looking to gain a better understanding of what has happened in Syria and what Syrians have had to go through, here are three powerful and informative Syrian documentaries to start with.

But be warned: these documentaries tell stories in their entirety and that includes the trauma and brutality. They seek to educate those who want to learn about a reality that has not been altered or censored.

Proceed with caution and know that life for many Syrians has been filled with horrific events caused by men in power who give definition to the word evil.

The Cave (2019)

The Cave tells the story of an aspiring pediatrician, Amani Ballour, and a team of doctors and staff working to keep a hospital running in Eastern Al-Ghouta, an area held by anti-government forces fighting to topple Syrian ruler Bashar Al-Assad.

To avoid relentless airstrikes and bombings from Assad and Russian airsupport, much of the hospital is constructed underground. This offers some protection for Ballour and the hospital staff but layers of earth and rubble can only do so much.

And for the people who Ballour and the hospital staff provide aid to, there is little to no protection at all. The Cave shows this and, in particular, it shows the work of Ballour and the hospital staff to save children who are gravely injured by the Syrian government attacks.

It’s a story that is as personal and revealing as it is disturbing and haunting. If you want to better understand the human suffering that has followed the war in Syria, The Cave is a great place to start.

Cries From Syria (2017)

While documentaries like The Cave focus on a select few people and stories, Cries From Syria focuses on Syria on a broader scale.

It provides a brief explanation on everything from the history of Bashar Al-Assad’s rise to power, to the horrors that sparked a country-wide rebellion, to the following war and resulting fallout.

It’s a traditional and informative documentary that features a series of sit down interviews with Syrians who have unique perspectives. Those interviewed include activists, rebel fighters, journalists, regime and war victims, and former members of Syria’s government military.

It’s a great documentary for those who are looking for a crash course on Syria’s civil war and its history. And while Cries From Syria doesn’t contain original footage centered around telling a personal narrative the way The Cave does, it does include footage that captured historical events in Syria as they unfolded.

The footage is also no less graphic (in some cases it is significantly more so) than what is shown in The Cave. It’s a documentary that follows the old-school documentary format but it is still an emotionally impactful and brutally honest documentary that is well worth watching.

For Sama (2019)

For Sama is not a documentary that should be watched unless you know what you are signing up for. The violence and graphic content revealed in this documentary are extreme, raw and haunting.

It shows war and its cruelty to the innocents involved to such a degree that it can leave a lasting impression on you for years. But, within the horrors shown in For Sama, there is a beautifully filmed and intensely intimate story that helps the viewer both empathize with and understand the Syrian people whose lives are put on display.

Told through the first-person view of the documentary’s producer, director and narrator Waad Al-Kateab, For Sama follows Al-Kateab’s life throughout five years in rebel-controlled Aleppo.

It also doubles as a love letter from Al-Kateab to her daughter, Sama, and shows Al-Kateab’s experiences as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth.

However, this love story is juxtaposed with the hell that Al-Kateab, her family and the people around her go through as Syrian government forces backed by Russia try to take back control of Aleppo with a complete disregard for the civilian lives in the city.

For Sama is the documentary to watch for those who want to learn about a truly human and Syrian experience, but it is by no means a film that has been censored for the sake of sparing the viewer’s feelings.

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