Shery Bechara and Lilas Mayassi are the lead guitarists and co-founders of the Middle East’s first all-female thrash metal band, Slave to Sirens. The Lebanese society they were born into is perhaps not the most open-minded one, especially for women who want to play as hard as the guys. And Lebanon may not have much of a metal scene, but certainly no other female-led bands.
Director, writer and cinematographer Rita Baghdadi has created a documentary that takes you into their lives, a place where they’re still learning and exploring their lives, all while making what they do seem as vital and needed as if you were playing alongside them.
According to Revolver, “In the 1990s, Christian religious institutions turned against metal culture, linking it to the suicide of a teenage boy and calling for a ban on all metal music.” The Christian and Muslim communities that live side by side can easily damn metal musicians and fans as outright Satanists — no different than American, but perhaps more dangerous, despite Lebanon being more culturally inclusive than other countries surrounding it.
Bechara and Mayassi met at an anti-government protest in 2015, so they certainly don’t shy about confronting the world around them in their music. Along with drummer Tatyana Boughab, bassist Alma Doumani and singer Maya Khairallah, Sirens follows the band as they struggle to exist and create art.
Behind all of this, Bechara and Mayassi once shared a secret romance before Mayassi met a Syrian woman and broke off the relationship. In the tradition of bands keeping going in the face of heartbreak and unresolved relationships, they remain friends and bandmates, even if things aren’t the same. Over the three years the movie covers, we see everything from them playing a sparsely attended Glastonbury gig to recording a new album, working their day jobs and even the Port of Beirut explosion, which leads to Mayassi pondering afterward, “Home doesn’t feel safe. Friendship doesn’t feel safe. Love doesn’t feel safe.”
As the band blasts riffs into the night, defying rolling blackouts and suburban bombs, perhaps the strife between the women who formed the band can be forgotten. If you’ve been in a band, you’ll recognize the times when the bad times are all worth it, the quick seconds that occur when a harmony is perfect, when a riff is discovered or the crowd — no matter how small — is with you ever beat, every word.
Sirens is playing North Bend Film Fest right now. You can learn more about the movie on the festival homepage or on the movie’s official Facebook page.