Facing all of these odds, Slave to Sirens do everything themselves. They shoot their own music videos. They released a four-song EP in 2018, and are glued to their phones, trying to set up gigs. Very few venues show any interest in heavy metal bands. Club owners don’t want the flak from the religious groups. The band works hard to avoid “metal cliches” in song construction, pacing, and sound. They watch videos of themselves performing. They critique one another. Their work ethic is admirable. Early on, the band gets a gig at the legendary Glastonbury festival, but their sole show is at noon, not exactly prime time. They play to about 20 people. As depressed as the band members are afterwards, what’s important is that they play for those 20 people as though they’re playing for thousands in a stadium. You don’t magically become a star. You have to believe you are one already. These women do.
Baghdadi embedded herself with the band, or, more specifically, with Bechara and Mayassi. Mayassi still lives at home, and hides that she is a lesbian from her obviously worried mother. Bechara and Mayassi’s dynamic can be explosive. At one point, Bechara leaves the band. She can’t take the tension anymore. Bechara is the songwriter, the one who pushes and challenges everyone else to improve. Her presence is sorely missed. Bands go through this stuff all the time. One wishes for more in-depth profiles of the other three band members, who remain peripheral presences at best in the film. (Revolver profiled the band in 2019, so if you want to know more about the lead singer, bassist, and drummer that’s a good place to start. Everyone’s journey is fascinating.)
Footage of the band is interspersed throughout with footage of the upheaval in Lebanon, the economic collapse, the street protests, riot police, smoke bombs, and an environment Mayassi refers to as “inherited trauma” from her parents’ generation. All of this has led to a “cycle of fear.” The protests against Article 534, making illegal “any sexual intercourse contrary to the order of nature,” is the air these women breathe. Bechara and Mayassi, chatting on the street about Mayassi’s hookup the night before, keep shushing each other automatically, in between giggles. Romance is not impossible, but it is dangerous. The August 4, 2020 port explosion in Beirut, resulting in over 215 casualties, devastates the city, bringing all the other protests into sharp relief. Two years later, and there’s still no justice for the victims. “Sirens” is dedicated to those killed by the blast.