Aug 31, 2008

Film Recommendation: Heavy Metal in Baghdad

Finally got to see this film (bless you, Netflix!), and I highly recommend it, particularly to metalheads of color and those against this (or any other) senseless war. The film tracks "the only Iraqi metal band" through it's struggles to just play the music that they love in their home country as it blows up around them. The insight of some of the members about what life in Iraq was like before Sadam, just after the overthrow, and in the years afterwards (portions of the film were shot in 2006 and 2007), is something else. And getting a video look at life both in Iraq during the war, and in the refugee communities in Syria where the band finally reunites is kind of mind-blowing.

One of the most amazing things is that the band had been together since 2002, but until their "reunion" show in Syria, they'd only played 6 times together. Their rehearsal spot in Baghdad was blown up by a rocket. They had nothing left, and yet they still push ahead to try to make music. It's phenomenal and really sad and triumphant all at once. Even if you're not a fan of the genre, you have to see this film. It's just very moving to see these young guys who have seen so much yet keep on pushing. And again, like that monk from Italy, they say that Metallica is an influence, but they kick Metallica's ass all over the place: their playing really rips.

On top of all of this, the film was co-directed by a South Asian Canadian: Suroosh Alvi - he has a welcome perspective that made me much less suspicious of it from the get-go (seeing the film-makers wearing kevlar vests just so they could make the trip out to Baghdad from the airport to meet the band in 2006 was pretty striking). They had to travel in an armored SUV and hire 2 gunmen and a fixer/translator.

You know, when I was talking about the film with a friend over breakfast yesterday, I realized that beyond the music element, the story personalizes the very real heartbreak playing itself out over and over again for people who have been forced to leave their homes as refugees, seeking asylum in places that are not as war-torn or dangerous. But it also reminds me that the story never ends with their entry into the accepting country: asylum seekers do not have it easy, and the band's travails and sharp observations of life in Syria (and to a lesser extent, Turkey) was quite telling. On the flip side, the way that the global metal community, upon watching the film and hearing that the guys had to sell all their gear to eat, came together, and raised money to get them more gear. Regardless of what people think about this subculture, there is a community here, and reading that just reminded me of that fact.

Anyway, not your average documentary about metal. Check it out. You won't be disappointed.

4 comments:

thecheddarbox said...

There's an awesome independent, locally owned video rental spot in Atlanta called Videdrome that specializes in documentaries, animation, and other obscure or indie flicks. I've seen this on the new release rack so I'm definitely gonna check it out. Thanks for the review!

KC

Rage said...

Excellent, and definitely do. It's probably not the first pick for social justice folks, but to see these 4 guys who aren't political at all (they talk about that in an early interview) live through some of the shit international human rights folks use as talking points is more gripping than just hearing statistics about refugees and the millions displaced by these wars.

thecheddarbox said...

"but to see these 4 guys who aren't political at all (they talk about that in an early interview) live through some of the shit international human rights folks use as talking points is more gripping than just hearing statistics about refugees and the millions displaced by these wars."

Oh man, just saw the flick and it blew my mind. Sooo good. Definitely gonna recommend it to folks, thanks again for plugging it.

KC

Rage said...

You are boss for checking it out so soon!! Keep letting me know about films too. Now that I'm normal again, I'm trying to catch up on the good stuff I've missed in the past... 10 years?