BAND ON THE RUN
published June 20, 2008
Heavy Metal in
released by Arts Alliance America
running time 84 minutes
with 90 minutes of bonus features
Heavy Metal in Baghdad is a
new documentary focusing on Acrassicauda, Iraq’s only heavy metal band. The four band mates: Firas, Tony, Marwan and Faisal, are
self-professed nonpolitical young men searching for freedom through the music they make. Amid war, strict curfew, firefights and snipers, they
share a rehearsal space in downtown Baghdad – until it is obliterated by a missile.
The film is co-directed by Eddy Moretti and Suroosh Alvi who too risk their lives by smuggling themselves into Iraq in order to
document the band. A bleak commentary on what happens when a country invades another, we are brought into a war zone led by a film crew who
can be killed at any moment. The crew hires a driver, a translator, an armored truck, an SUV, and several shooters (armed
After the title and until the bonus features, there is virtually no good news. Survival is a full-time job for the band and crew.
Firas is the band’s bassist and most vocal. He and his mates have learned English from movies and by listening to bootleg recordings of
bands such as Slayer and Metallica. Like Lars (of Metallica), Firas drops the F-bomb every chance he gets. It appears it is one of his only
freedoms, as head banging and growing long hair can be cause for incarceration.
According to UN reports, 80% of all Iraqi singers have fled the country and at least 75 singers have been killed since the U.S.
invasion started. In addition, since the fall of ’06 the insurgents have been posting decrees everywhere that are banning “music-filled
parties and all kinds of singing.” At least 2.4 million Iraqis have fled their country, half of whom are living illegally in Syria. The
U.S. has let in only 466 Iraqis.
One band mate moves to Syria and another to Jordan. Two years pass and the directors catch up with the band as they are reunited
in Damascus, Syria, living as refugees. The film’s main error is that it ends on a definite low note and without resolve…which is the
beauty of DVD bonus features! Thanks to extra footage we meet up once again with the band as they get back on their feet (now living in
Istanbul, no less), and come to terms with their new found minor successes. It is however, a mixed blessing. Most notably, because an Iraqi
news channel has reported their story, and they can never go home again.
chadmenville @ stageandcinema.com