| July 26, 2020
Manara starts immediately after the Zayyad family loses the head of the family under some unique circumstances and is now left struggling, and fending for themselves. Rami (Zayn Alexander), Noura (Pascale Seigneurie), and their mother Alia (Hala Basma Safiedinne) must now work together to cope with this important man’s death. Within the small town where they live, located in Southern Lebanon, the community is judgmental, and the Zayyad’s are afraid that they will misunderstand what has happened to their family. Their egos will make coping more difficult than they ever imagined as they struggle to stay afloat emotionally.
“…the Zayyad family loses the head of the family…and is now left struggling…”
The film opens to a beautiful beach accompanied by a manara (lighthouse). The view is serene and inviting; it’s almost too calm, and the audience begins to expect that their beach solace will soon be ruined. When first introduced to the Zayyad family, they speak about the death of someone, repeating to one another what happened, and the relaxing feeling that director Zyan Alexander provides audiences with in the first few seconds is gone. With the help of writer Pascale Seigneurie (who plays his on-screen sister), they immediately flip the script and force the viewers to embrace the disaster that lies before the Zayyads. They quickly provide content to make the audience feel the same as the characters. Their writing and directorial abilities are stellar, which is enough to keep the audience engaged.
Seigneurie and Alexander’s cinematic prowess is enough to enjoy Manara, but the film itself touches on some dark and hard to swallow subjects that also intrigue viewers and have them begging for more. The tandem perfectly captures the necessary emotion to guide their story, but I can’t help but feel that I might appreciate a feature-length film over the short film. Even though every aspect of the film is well developed, I believe that an hour or so would have better suited the story, as there is so much potential to build on what they have created. This critique, however, is, in many ways, a compliment. Audiences want more from the writer and director and feel that they have the ability to make the film better than it already is. Nevertheless, Seigneurie and Alexander excel in their respective roles and engross audiences for the entire fifteen-minute film.