Lebanon might be suffering, but its art never stops. This year’s Sundance Film Festival featured a documentary film by the Moroccon-American filmmaker, Rita Baghdadi. The documentary follows the story of the two female co-founders and guitarists of the Lebanese death/thrash metal band, Slave to Sirens. The film entered the documentary competition and it shed light on female gender norms in Lebanon, as well as the existence of metal bands in the Middle East!
Sirens by Rita baghdadi
Baghdadi is an Emmy award-winning documentary filmmaker. Currently based in Los Angeles, she analyzes how Arabs are portrayed in Hollywood as well as in the Middle East. Through her films, Baghdadi wants to represent real Arab characters, creating bold films and stories. As a filmmaker, she wants to show the evolution of the MENA region; not through hiding the bad, but by presenting real humans with real-life experience.
Her movie, “Sirens,” about the Lebanese band, Slaves to Sirens, is an example of that. The thrash death metal band was formed in 2016. It’s the first independent all-female metal band in Lebanon. The film stars Lilas and Sherry, the co-founders of the band. It follows their lives for three years, starting with their performance in Glastonbury in 2018. Over the course of the film, they dabble with friendship, heartbreak, and ups and downs of trying to achieve their dream of being rock stars.
In that way, the film discusses social issues in the Middle East. As two women try to form a metal band, abandoning the notion of marriage in their twenties, they defy gender norms. Viewers are forced to take notice of the growing culture and liberation happening in the Middle East. According to Baghdadi, it’s not all war and economical collapse. People in the MENA region also fight for their unorthodox dreams.
The film ultimately makes people aware of the Metal scene in the Middle East. Matter of fact, there are many Arab metal bands that are equally struggling to get the acknowledgment they deserve.
The Saudi Arabian black/folk metal band has been on the scene since 2008. Because their music discusses controversial topics and specifically religion, the band members’ identities are concealed. However, it’s known that the band is made of three members. They have had many albums and singles released in the past years.
Straight from Egypt, Crescent is a Blackened Death Metal band, founded in 1998. The band has four Egyptian members. Honoring their origins, they used the hieroglyphic language in one of their songs! Crescent is actually well known in their home country.
Nervecell is a death/thrash metal band from the United Arab Emirates. Founded in 1999, the band is still active until this day. The three-member band has five albums released so far, and they have their own line of merch as well. Their songs often discuss misery and society.
The Bahraini thrash/speed metal band was founded in 2016. Formed of three band members, the band has just one EP out so far. Some of the topics the band sings about are war and violence. They’ve been mostly touring the world playing their music.
This Algerian death metal band often discusses philosophy and society in their tracks. Formed in 2010, the band consists of two members. So far, they have an EP released and two albums. Their music has been described as brutal by fans, but they love it.
Metal bands in the Middle East are numerous and a single article wouldn’t cover it. For more bands, you can probably check the metal archive.