Heavy Metal in Baghdad

I picked this up at Hollywood Video for two reasons.

1) I thought I remembered Nathan Lee giving it a positive review on Rotten Tomatoes
2) The cover is awesome and features an Iron Maiden-esque font.

I must say, it surprised me. I was expecting something a lot more music oriented, as the documentary centers on Acrassicauda (the only Iraqi heavy metal band), but the immediate focus of the picture is clearly the current state of life Iraq, and to that end, the presenters paint a very vivid picture. From the complicated and roundabout means by which they have to make their way into Iraq and then into Baghdad, to the security detail of 12 armed men in 3 cars to protect the two filmmakers, to the curfews and bombed out buildings, to the insane military and police presence and to the nonchalance of interviewees as guns are being fired in the background, daily life in the capital of Iraq proves to be far more bleak than anyone who relies on Fox News for information would ever believe.

Speaking English on the street can get you shot. Wearing an American band t-shirt on the street can get you shot. Growing your hair long can get you shot. Having a video camera on the street all but guarantees that you will be stopped by the police and asked to erase footage, and, like just about anything else, can get you shot. At one point it is revealed that the bass player and singer of the band are best friends who live approximately 15 minutes away from each other, but had not seen each other in almost 6 months because leaving your house in Iraq always comes with the risk of – you guessed it – getting yourself shot.

The band had to practice in a basement and run their amps on generators. Their first show was during the reign of Saddam Hussein, and they had to write and preform a song praising Saddam and his regime in order to play the show. Had they not done a song praising Saddam, they would have been arrested. Apparently, during the Hussein years, it was not unbelievable that someone would get arrested for headbanging because it too closely resembled Jewish people praying at the Wailing Wall.

In addition to the difficulty of making it from sunrise to sunset alive in Baghdad every day, it is even harder to live your life as a metal head in Baghdad and hardest of all is do play in a metal band in Baghdad. In the groups 5 years, they managed to only play 6 shows. The building that housed their practice spaced was bombed and they lost all of their instruments and their only place to rehearse. In time, all the members of the band eventually flee to Syria as refugees where they reunite to play another show and record a demo, but their troubles did not end there either.

This film is a real eye-opener for those of us who can’t stomach watching the 10 o’clock news, as well as those of us who played in bands and thought it was a struggle to arrange a practice and write songs and book shows. All-in-all, I came away from this film feeling completely ashamed of my country, yet thanking my lucky stars that my family and I live here, which I tend to feel at least once or twice every day.

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About Anthony

Husband of one, father of one. Two cats, one dog, a bike, and some fishing poles. I do nothing well.
This entry was posted in Movies & Television, Music and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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