Sundance Film Festival: ‘Sirens’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

In some parts of the world, women aren’t free to be themselves at all. So when a documentary feature like Sirens is brought to our attention, it comes with great importance that we understand the difference in female identity in all parts of the world. Director Rita Baghdadi focuses on the first and only all-woman thrash metal band in the Middle East called, ‘Slave to Sirens’. While they navigate the political unrest and the heart breaking unraveling of Beirut, these five bandmates form a beacon of expression, resistance, and independence. Baghdadi specifically follows founders and guitarists Lilas Mayassi and Shery Bechara; their relationship is somewhat flawed and we see the change in how they work together within the band. They are joined by vocalist Maya Khairallah, bassist Alma Doumani, and drummer Tatyana Boughaba, as they journey through young adulthood together, while fighting the system and expressing who they truly are.

What Baghdadi did was really focus on the music and what it meant to this band of women. What those lyrics mean to them and how this genre of music allows them to fully express themselves. The connectivity between music and human emotion is definitely shown in this feature. You can tell that these women have been struggling with their own sense of agency among the government silencing them. The only way they can authentically express themselves is through their music and they go on this emotional journey as they try to push forward as a band. Lilas Mayassi was going through her own identity crisis and not knowing her sexual identity. Baghdadi also showed how harmful the messaging was in the Middle East towards the LGBTQ community.

It’s a journey through adolescence in a world that doesn’t feel as open or welcoming to women. How can a young girl even attempt to navigate through any of that without the freedom to express themselves. Baghdadi also captures the beauty of creativity in all its madness in a very candid way. There were natural conversations about changing certain notes or lyrics, even the arguments felt natural because it came from a soulful place. You could see how much the music itself meant to each of them and when Mayassi got passionate, it changed the whole dynamic of the band. It’s an entertaining and educational feature that really highlights the struggles of this band through a female lens.

Sirens is a documentary feature that will get you into the mindset of these women and how they operate within the band. The standout is Mayassi because she is the central focus but her partner Shery Bechara also creeps through and has her moments as well. Together they are the ones to ground the band in having these important meetings to discuss the issues within the band and what they need to do to move forward. You don’t need to be into heavy metal to appreciate this documentary because all music has a story, which creates an emotional connection to these women. Even though it all feels very natural, there is also a sense of urgency through Baghdadi’s direction.

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