Released: 2007, Vice Films
Preface. This is Part II of a two-part review.
You can search for an read Part I of the review of the companion book HEAVY METAL IN BAGHDAD in our reviews
This is a very interesting DVD, one sure to go down in the annals of metal history. In case you are not familiar with the story I’ll give you a quick recap. Back in 2003 or so some young dudes living in Baghdad decided to form a Heavy Metal band called Acrassicauda, which stands for ‘Black Scorpion’. Because of the political climate in Iraq, creating a Metal band was quite an unusual move and the story caught the eye of a journalist writing for Vice magazine. The magazine article appeared in January of 2004. The band established a relationship with the magazine and the story eventually evolved into a three-part TV series that aired on VBS in 2007. The editors felt there was enough original material to warrant a full-length feature film. The footage was re-cut, edited and released at the Toronto Film Festival in September of 2007. The story kept growing and eventually it was released on DVD in 2008 with bonus footage and eventually the book came out in 2009.
One of many, many Heavy Metal themed documentaries this one has a far more political overtone and is less about the music but more about documenting a band and their struggle to survive. The film itself clocks in at about and hour and a half and there are some very decent bonus features including a 45 minute follow up about the band, 30 minutes of bonus footage (Interviews, live clips) and as a very nice touch an 8-page, full colour booklet that has an interview with the film makers and a reproduction of the original magazine article from 2004 that started it all. Well done and well presented.
The movie is a fairly standard documentary style, standard editing, no special effects naturally and a linear style. It’s not a talking head documentary by any means, it is certainly has frontline action at concerts, at the bands home, on the road. The filmmakers intimate style really makes you feel like you were there, which is at times frightening. There was no need to use film technique or planned dialogue to generate tension, it came through very realistically. The film was at times as much about the challenges the film-makers had even trying to get to meet the band in Iraq in an urban war zone clocking in 200 killings per day. Even the band thought the film-makers were crazy to try to come to Iraq for the story! The film makers wisely avoid politicizing the scenario choosing not to comment on the war and the reasons behind it, but stay focused on the task at hand.
HEAVY METAL IN BAGHDAD is a fascinating insight into the lives of people trying to do ordinary things (ie, play music, shoot a film) in an environment where those ‘ordinary’ things are truly extraordinary endeavours. It’s a great documentary for film fans and Metal fans alike, leaving a lasting impression about the tenacity and dedication of the band (and film crew!), as well as showing western viewers how lucky we are to enjoy the freedoms we have. I don’t want to politicize the film or put my personal interpretation into it, however as a journalist who has talked to countless young bands at the beginning of their careers trying to ‘make it’, (and hearing their stories, complaints and struggles) I’d suggest that almost all of them don’t realize how lucky they are or how easy they have it compared to Acrassicauda. I feel this film would make many struggling young musicians appreciate the resources they have and the freedom to use them. HEAVY METAL IN BAGHDAD is one of the best metal documentaries to date and it is a great companion piece to the book. Please feel free to click here to read my review of the book.