Director: Jennifer Hanley
Runtime: 88 minutes
Mena Isaac is a single, successful Lebanese-American lawyer, married to her career. Sarah, her mother, desperately wants grandchildren and even arranges some “dates” (including, unwittingly, one with a gay Lebanese man). But Mena is getting older and Sarah is losing hope. Although, the Isaacs are a modern Lebanese-American family, their conservative cultural roots are not completely left behind.
Mena has been working so hard on her career that she doesn’t notice that she has lost something. Her natural spark and light have disappeared. But all of that is about to change when she signs up for belly dance classes. Mena finds she is a natural and soon her teacher asks her to perform at a local restaurant/club. Mena has serious misgivings: No one in her family would dance like this in public. Belly dancers are considered one step up from prostitutes, although ironically, they are often hired to dance at family weddings and events. And what if they find out at her conservative law firm? But, Mena is starting to feel something she thought she’d lost forever, reclaiming some piece of herself, and just maybe that is worth the risk?!
Soon, she’s dancing regularly at the restaurant. Her co-workers start to notice something different about her: Does she have a new boyfriend? Extra B12? Mena laughs them off, but how long can she keep up this double life? Inevitably, her secret is revealed in a very public way. Will she lose her job and family’s respect? Will she have to give up the one thing that has reconnected her to herself?!
Tarab will have broad appeal to audiences across many demographics. It touches upon universal themes that transcend age, gender, and cultural differences: Secrets long held, dreams deferred and rediscovered later in life, and the conflict between family obligations vs. personal fulfillment.
Tarab is Arabic for musical ecstasy, bliss, or enchantment; an extreme emotional transformation leading to intense feelings of joy, sorrow, or sadness; a concept with no exact English translation. Its timely themes include the societal and cultural pressure upon women to conform to certain norms, acceptance of homosexuality in Arabic culture, and the difficulties women face in owning their sexuality in today’s climate.