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:: Heavy Metal In Baghdad

There’s no shortage of documentaries focussing on the metal scene these days. But out off all the documentaries based around the metal genre, one film stands alone as completely different and quite unique, and that’s ‘Heavy Metal In Baghdad’. ‘Heavy Metal In Baghdad’ follows the trials, challenges and tragedies of Iraq heavy metal act Acrassicauda (Latin for ‘Black Scorpion’) in the years that followed after the publication of an article on the band in Vice Magazine in 2003.

The film essentially begins in 2005, when the film-makers return to Iraq to find out how the heavy metal band is faring after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime. What unfolds over the next eighty-four minutes is a truly amazing story of a band (Who comprise of vocalist/rhythm guitarist Faisal Talal, lead guitarist Tony Aziz, bassist Firas Al Lateef and drummer Marwan Reyad) whose only wish for peace in their worn torn Iraq, and the freedom of playing the music the way they want. Shot over a three year period, filmmakers Eddy Moretti and Suroosh Alvi document the bands flee to Damascus (Syria) as refugee’s to escape the growing violence in Baghdad (Iraq) after the U.S. occupation, with the ever growing threat of deportation over their heads.

Although billed as an insight into the metal scene that exists within the Middle East, ‘Heavy Metal In Baghdad’ is so much deeper than that. The music almost takes a second place here, as the film presents the human story behind the band’s ever constant struggle against all odds to find a place they can really call home (Outside their native Iraq of course), and their constant strive to have the freedom of the west.

Despite the band’s misfortunes (Their destruction of their rehearsal studio, selling their instruments to pay rent, being denied visas, leaving behind family, etc…), there’s some real triumphs within the band’s story as well, with their first demo recording sessions and the elation of managing to play live (Which they only managed to do a few times) providing some glimmer of hope in what is a tragic story.

Overall, ‘Heavy Metal In Baghdad’ provides a fascinating insight in what life is like in the Middle East, and a solemn reminder of just how lucky musicians in the west are with the freedom we generally take for granted.

Aside from the main feature, this DVD release also includes the forty-five minute follow-up documentary ‘Heavy Metal In Istanbul’, which picks where the film left off, with the band settling in Istanbul (Turkey) as illegal immigrants. Also included is a bunch of bonus material, including five additional scenes, two deleted scenes, a trailer for the film and three live performances from the band (‘Underworld’ from Syria, and ‘King Without A Throne’ (Rehearsal footage) and ‘Message From Baghdad’ from Istanbul).
‘Heavy Metal In Baghdad’ provides a fascinating insight into what its like to be a metal fan from the other side of the world, as well as offering an insiders perspective of what life is really like in Iraq outside what the media generally presents us on a nightly basis. In conclusion, this is a documentary that has to be seen, regardless of whether you’re into metal, or not.