Ready to rock?
The Sundance selected documentary “Sirens,” directed by Rita Baghdadi, tells the story of Lebanon’s first all-female metal band, Slave to Sirens. The film is executive-produced by Natasha Lyonne and Maya Rudolph and centers on the band’s friendships, relationships, and at times, self-destruction, in the pursuit of rock stardom. “Sirens” won the Grand Jury Prize at Outfest and is set to premiere in theaters September 30 from Oscilloscope Laboratories.
Per the official synopsis, on the outskirts of Beirut, Lilas and her thrash metal bandmates, Shery, Maya, Alma, and Tatyana (Slave to Sirens), have big dreams but few opportunities. When the band’s appearance at a U.K. music festival isn’t the life-changer they had hoped for, Lilas comes home to Lebanon on the brink of collapse. At the same time, the complicated relationship between Lilas and her fellow guitarist Shery starts to fracture. The future of her band, her country, and her dreams now all at stake, Lilas faces a crossroads. She must decide what kind of leader she will be, not only for her band, but also as a young woman struggling to define herself in Lebanon, a country as complex as each of the Sirens themselves.
Lyonne and Rudolph’s Animal Pictures production company, along with Danielle Renfrew Behrens, serve as executive producers. The company also is behind “Loot,” “Russian Doll,” and Rian Johnson’s upcoming Peacock series “Poker Face.”
Director, producer, and cinematographer Baghdadi was inspired to share the story of the Sirens after seeing how Arab people were portrayed onscreen. “They were demonized and belittled, and the entire MENA region was characterized as enemy territory,” Baghdadi said in a statement on the film. “Where were all the young people living their lives?… I longed to see any version of myself and my family represented on screen.”
After discovering the music of Slave to Sirens in 2018, Baghdadi befriended frontwoman Lilas and wanted to change the portrayal of Arab women once and for all.
“I saw an opportunity to make exactly the kind of film I wish I had seen growing up: A film where Arab women could be the stars of their own story, and not the victims in someone else’s,” Baghdadi explained. “Where Arab women could scream, curse, thrash, and talk openly about sexuality without being sexualized. I knew that the best way to challenge Western expectations of what it’s like to be a young woman growing up in the Middle East today was simply to feature her like everyone else: human, full of dreams, and fueled by desire.”
Baghdadi concluded, “A mentor once told me, ‘Don’t try to change the world, make a film that will change your life.’ That certainly was the case making ‘Sirens.'”
IndieWire’s Jude Dry gave the documentary an A- review, writing that the feature is a “powerful reminder that punk isn’t dead if you know where to look.”
“Sirens” premieres September 30.
Watch the trailer, an IndieWire exclusive, below.