Chris Kavan's Movie Review of Heavy Metal in Baghdad

Rating of

Heavy Metal in Baghdad

Bang Your Head - Iraq's Plight Will Drive You Mad
Chris Kavan - wrote on 03/08/09

This eye-opening and entertaining documentary takes an honest and often emotional look into the current Iraq occupation, and how it affects the Iraqi people, the mass exodus of refugees through the eyes of Acrassicauda, billed as the only heavy metal band in Iraq.

Starting in 2003, at a jubilant, if small, concert that Acrassicauda puts on (their last gig in Iraq) and fast forwarding two years later when things have changed. Suroosh Alvi and Eddy Moretti brave the new, dangerous Iraq (as they are putting on flak jackets, they admit what they're doing is suicidal at best, incredibly stupid at worst) they decide to track down the members to see if they're still playing, or even still alive.

The eye-opening part of the documentary is how much of a toll the war has taken on Iraq. The new Democracy has a curfew, a 5-minute time limit on outside gatherings and plenty of damage. The band's former practice space (a store basement) has been bombed, along with all their gear. The surviving members are afraid to grow their hair out for fear of being labeled as too American, and therefore marked for death. Even something as simple as speaking English (for which most of the members have a pretty good grasp of American slang) is a risky venture.

Iraq is a dangerous place, but when asked about the so-called insurgency, the 20-something men, wise beyond their years and looking more like war-weary veterans, they get visibly upset. The American media is reporting propaganda. They don't understand where they are getting their information, but the violence that they see isn't influenced by religion in the least and as they see it, just as many have been hurt by Americans as insurgents.

When they have had enough, the members relocate to Syria. As told, the exodus is in the millions - with many more displaced inside the country as have left. Syria, while safer than Iraq, is no less a prison. Working long hours for little money, no heavy metal scene, and still limited in how they can express themselves, the band lives in cramped, drab quarters, actually pining for life back home.

To sum it up, Acrassicauda biggest fan, a young man named Mike, breaks down the situation: he's being punished for being born in Iraq. The West won't have him, neither will Europe. He wants to travel the world, much like our directors, but because of his birth and current situation, he's trapped. Since Saddam was ousted, the U.S. has let in a handful of Iraqi citizens compared to the million and more Syria has accepted. Most refugees are eventually forced back to Iraq because of a lack of money.

A supplement has a happier ending for our boys in the band. They reach Turkey, which has a much better metal scene, they can wear their hair long, play an actual club, get interviewed many times over and even record a three-song demo. However, it isn't all good. With only a month-long Visa, the boys have to re-apply for permanent refugee status and all the media attention has detracted from their music - they want to be their own band, not just "that band from Iraq". Even after all that has happened, they are still proud to be Iraqis, and will never deny their homeland, even if they never get back.

This was an honest documentary. It wasn't overly political - it seemed to show things from an Iraqi point-of-view, bleak as it is. I'm glad I was able to see this.

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