The Menace from Above

In the shallow waters of the Red Sea, a happy-go-lucky fish is forced to set out on a journey to save the sea creatures from the soulless monster before it kills all life underwater.

  • Mariam Khayat
  • Mariam Khayat
  • Mariam Khayat
  • Talitha Barkow
  • Jason Fujita
    Music Composer
  • Matthew Steidl
    Director of Photography
  • Wid Alhajjaji
    Background Design & Modeling
  • Vanessa Rosuello
    Character Design & Modeling
  • Yimin Zhang
    Lighting Artist
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    وحش من السماء
  • Project Type:
    Animation, Short, Student
  • Genres:
    environmental, family, children, action
  • Runtime:
    6 minutes 8 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    September 1, 2022
  • Country of Origin:
    Saudi Arabia
  • Country of Filming:
    Saudi Arabia, United States
  • Language:
    Arabic, English
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
    Yes - University of Southern California
  • Los Angeles International Children's Film Festival
    Los Angeles
    United States
    March 24, 2023
    World Premiere
  • Silk Road International Film Festival
    Best International Student Film Award
  • Saudi Film Festival
    Saudi Arabia
    May 5, 2023
    Best Animation Film Award
  • Catalina Film Festival
    United States
  • Red Sea International Film Festival
    Saudi Arabia
    December 1, 2023
  • Boston International Kids Festival
    United States
    November 10, 2023
  • Chicago International Children's Film Festival
    United States
    November 3, 2023
  • Lebanese Independent Film Festival
  • Tirana International Film Festival
  • Alexandria International Film Festival
    November 10, 2023
  • Animatex Egypt
  • Another Way Film Festival
    October 18, 2023
  • S.O.F.A Film Festival

  • SunChild International Environmental Festival

  • Innsbruck Nature Film Festival
  • International Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival
    Kuala Lumpur
  • International Animation Festival AJAYU
    October 4, 2023

    October 18, 2023
  • The Animattikon Project

    October 28, 2023
  • Anim!Arte - International Student Animation Festival of Brazil

    November 5, 2023
  • AIU Film Festival
    November 5, 2023
  • Filmambiente International Festival of Environmental Films

    November 23, 2023

    December 7, 2023
Distribution Information
  • USC School of Cinematic Arts - Sandrine Casssidy
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Mariam Khayat

Mariam Khayat is an animation writer and producer. She holds an MFA degree in Animation and Digital Arts from the University of Southern California. She recently produced the animation shorts "The Menace from Above" and "Saleeg," which are recipients of the Daw’ Film Fund by the Saudi Ministry of Culture.

Her previous animation shorts have screened at multiple film festivals around the world, namely the Lebanese Independent Film Festival and Silk Road International Film Festival in Ireland, and had won the Audience Choice Award at Mentor Arabia.

Mariam co-founded Cinepoetics Pictures, a film production studio, where she’s currently producing animation projects. When she's not making films, Mariam is swimming, or diving.

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Director Statement

I like to call myself a child of the sea, it is my sanctuary and my home. I am solar powered, I breathe the ocean, and I tell stories through film and animation. I’ve followed the water- centered themes of my previous films and returned to the sea to tell this story.

The Red Sea earned its colorful name as a result of the abundance of red corals, at least that is one of the theories. When I snorkeled there as a kid, I saw the beautiful, multi-colored corals along with astonishing creatures peacefully enjoying their lives. I still remember my first encounter with a fish that watched me and bumped into me as I swam around. A few years ago, I returned to the Red Sea, but instead of the beautiful views I remembered, I saw bleached white corals. I saw death where there used to be life. I’d read about coral bleaching as one of the negative effects of 8 million tons of plastic dumped into our oceans each year, but I never expected it to come this close to home. I wondered if my fish friend could have survived in this dying environment fifteen years later. Would she cheerfully bump into other humans, or would she be suffocated by our irresponsibility? I decided that something had to be done to prevent the oceans all around the world from drowning in our trash.

With this film, I would like to bring awareness to consumers of the damage caused by single-use plastic on the ocean’s ecosystems. This underwater adventure will take you through the day of Zahra, our leading fish, as she encounters a monster endangering her friends. Determined to save her sea creature pals, Zahra charges the monster: an insidious plastic bag. In my film, I aim to humanize the pollution crisis that our planet is facing by telling it through the experiences of relatable ocean creatures. I aim to tell a light story with humorous scenes and characters that experience friendship, fear, and most of all, compassion.

Cleaning the oceans is an important global initiative, but cleaning is not enough when we continue to litter it. It is an endless, malicious cycle as plastics do not disintegrate and can be difficult to recycle if they can be recycled at all. The issues surrounding single-use plastic pertain to ordinary people, companies, and governments alike. We may not see it, but below the surface, entire ecosystems struggle with it daily. It is only a matter of time until the effects are irreversible.

This story is both local and universal, as bodies of water both big and small, far and near, struggle with plastic pollution. My hope is that this prevalent issue paired with the film’s kind- hearted characters sparks compassion in an audience of all ages. My desire is for this film’s audience to see the consequences of our actions, to empathize with Zahra, and start a dialogue around single-use plastic. Though Zahra was able to beat the monster once, there is plenty more plastic still in the ocean. I believe that with this short film, people could become aware of the damage caused by plastic and begin to take the steps towards healing our oceans.