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Heavy Metal in Baghdad
Heavy Metal in Baghdad
Actors: Eddy Moretti, Suroosh Alvi, Firas al Lateef, Faisal Talal, Marwan Reyad
Director: Eddy Moretti;Suroosh Alvi
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Documentary, Military & War
R     2008     2hr 28min

Heavy Metal in Baghdad is a documentary feature film that follows the Iraqi heavy metal band Acrassicauda (Latin for a deadly black scorpion native to Iraq) from the fall of Saddam Hussein to their escape from Iraq. The ba...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Eddy Moretti, Suroosh Alvi, Firas al Lateef, Faisal Talal, Marwan Reyad
Director: Eddy Moretti;Suroosh Alvi
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Documentary, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Documentary, Military & War
Studio: Arts Alliance America
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 06/10/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 2hr 28min
Screens: Color,Full Screen,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
Edition: Collector's Edition
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English

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Member Movie Reviews

Keith A. (Keefer522)
Reviewed on 8/28/2013...
Eye opening documentary about Acrassicauda, the only heavy metal band in Iraq, and their daily struggles trying to keep their band together in the midst of a war zone.

After seeing the crap this band goes through on a daily basis, all I can say is DAMN. Next time I read an interview with some lame-ass band complaining about how tough life on the road is, I hope someone tells them to shut up and watch this movie.
Marshall B. (Vassago619) from RAMONA, CA
Reviewed on 2/18/2009...
I was excited to watch this video, but their is just way too much America bashing in it. They claim to not have a political message in their music, but all you have to do is read the titles to all three of their songs and you can see that is not true.
2 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.

Movie Reviews

A testament to the power of rock 'n' roll
The Delite Rancher | Phoenix, Arizona | 07/10/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Heavy Metal in Baghad" is the story of Acrassicauda (Black Scorpion), the only heavy metal band in Iraq. In Baghdad, the band struggles to practice and perform despite obstacles set up by both the Americans and terrorists. Eventually, the situation at home gets bad enough to force an exodus to Syria. There, the band reunites, plays a live show and records a demo. (The three demo songs can be heard on the band's myspace page.) The film is a personalized and unique look at life in post-invasion Iraq. While the heavy metal scene is counter culture in the West, it can be a literal death wish in the Middle East. Where the band members live, they are unable to play their music or grow long hair. At the same time they are denied visas to emigrate to the West. While about a heavy metal band, an interest in metal is not a prerequisite for an appreciation of this film. (For the curious, they sound similar to Iron Maiden.) "Heavy Metal in Baghdad" is a well done piece of film that will appeal to anyone with an interest in Iraq, rock music or the exercise of civil liberties. In this respect, the movie is like a cross between Michael Franti's "I Know I'm Not Alone" and the "Refugee All Stars." Director Eddy Moretti crafted an unusual and powerful film. While showing the far reaches of rock 'n' roll, "Heavy Metal in Baghdad" teaches us all about the nature of war and freedom."
A first-rate documentary...with METAL!
trashcanman | Hanford, CA United States | 04/20/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

""Heavy Metal in Baghdad" chronicles a mere three years of the existence of Iraq's only heavy metal band, Acrassicauda (latin for Black Scorpion). It's an eventful three years. The band endured a war, a gunshot wound, gigs played with intermittent electricity, and a destroyed practice space before fleeing their country and learning a lot about the world and the true meaning of metal in the process. And you too will learn more about real musicians and Iraq in this 90 minutes then in 100 years of 24-7 coverage on any mainstream news channel. This is documentary filmmaking at it's very best.

The band began under the rule of Saddam Hussein, whose thugs told them that they could only perform if they wrote and played a tribute song for Hussein in person. Yes, that man really was that full of himself. The band derisively recounts that the tune itself wasn't bad but the lyrics praising the dictator by name were "just a bunch of [...] lies and sh!+". Note that the members of the band "perfected" their English by listening to Slayer albums. But even in this hardcore Islamist climate where wearing a Slipknot shirt is reason enough to be shot on sight, people hunger for the raw energy and catharsis that only heavy metal can provide. The drummer has to fill his instrument with clothing to keep the noise down, and any expression of an art form viewed as evil and American risks their lives, but these people do it anyways. The crowds bang their heads even though they are chastised for it's resemblance to Jewish prayer, they mosh politely on their knees so that they don't obscure the view to the tiny stage, they don Sepultera and Megadeth shirts; like you and me they live for this. The difference between there and here is, they sometimes die for it. Western metal bands sing about death. These guys live it.

One member of Acrassicauda recalls being shot as he drove down the street following America's "Mission Accomplished". With 300 civilian deaths daily, the young man asks if this is our democracy and freedom. "[...] this democracy", he states matter of factly. Looking at his bombed-out neighborhood, it's hard to argue. When the band's practice space is hit by a rocket and destroyed along with their instruments after the extreme pains they took to put together a mere 6 shows in 5 years as the only metal band in Iraq, it's even harder. In a city where the only music store was driven out of business because of death threats, vigilante Islamist militias disguise themselves as the police, and neighbors and friends don't see each other for months because going out in the street is not a risk they are willing to take, it's DAMN hard to feel good about Bush's brand of democracy. Particularly when the media continues to report how pleased the Iraqi citizens are with their new overlords. Acrassicauda's bassist delivers a firey lecture on just how far the news coverage has been from reality. Lots of f-bombs are dropped. He also points out that the whole jihad thing is a myth propagated by the media. The truth: almost all Muslims are indistinguishable from anybody else walking down the street in any city in the world. Seeing real footage of real people in Baghdad, you'd never think it was the same place portrayed in our media.

"Heavy Metal in Baghdad" is a true reality check for both music fans and people who think they can know a damn thing about the world from watching the news. When a bandmember holds up an Iron Maiden album cover and declares "this is what life looks like here", he laughs but he's not joking. Armored humvees fill the streets, Apache helicopters fly by, they can tell which explosions are missiles and which are car bombs. This is real life to these people. When Acrassicauda's formerly non-political singer directs his anger at the audience and accuses that this is the stuff we turn off when it comes on our television, I saw a man who'd grown up a lot. He had previously declared that the band was not political and that he would change the channel when that stuff came on. But three years of watching your country die and being forced to flee to Syria where he was not allowed to travel freely simply because of his nationality taught him a lesson. Life is not fair, and we have no right to treat people as second-class world citizens simply because they were born in the wrong geographical area. The previously non-political band records the first heavy metal album ever in the world's oldest city, Damascus. Among the songs is a bitter, heartfelt view of the war that took his country from him. Now he truly gets what metal is all about.

The band's reunion performance in Damascus is fantastic to watch unfold. At first, a very few people show up and the band declares to the cameras that this will be Acrassicauda's final show. Risking your life to play this music just is not worth it if nobody even shows up to your gigs. The band timidly opens with an 80's hair band cheese classic, having decided that they would stick to covers and try not to frighten away the small crowd they did have. More people show up. The band breaks in something a little heavier: a little Guns n' Roses. The crowd continues growing in both size and excitement. Acrassicauda breaks into Metallica's "Fade to Black". The audience explodes. Soon, the group's ultra-heavy original material is whipping the crowd into a frenzy; guess they won't be breaking up after all. The simple fact is that music is a universal language. Contrary to whatever regime is in power or what the social norms of a region are, there will always be an audience for true, passionate music that speaks to our deepest feelings. It is a global phenomenon and it cannot be suppressed.

"Heavy Metal in Baghdad" speaks to the viewer on many levels and does an amazing job of educating without ever talking down to the audience. It shows us reality when all we get on television is propaganda and lies. It shows us what it really means to have a passion for music; even if it invites your own death. When asked why he would even take the risk of wearing a metal t-shirt, the musician simply states that he believes in his fate whatever it may be and he's ready to die if necessary. How many top-40 fans would say such a thing? Every emo kid who spends more time on his hair then practicing his instrument, every hardcore wannabe who screams venom at the parents who paid for his instruments, every trendchaser looking to make it big because you want to be rich and famous: take a good hard look. Acrassicauda is everything a true band or artist should strive to be. The worst thing that will ever happen in your life is better then these guys' best day and they still carry on doing what they love ONLY because they love doing it. If only we could all have that kind of integrity of character."
Can you handle the truth?
Irfan A. Alvi | Towson, MD USA | 11/22/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Let me start by disclosing that I know one of the directors. In fact, that's how I found out about this documentary, and I watched it because I was curious to see what he came up with. Suroosh, job well done!

To be clear, this documentary is only superficially about heavy metal or the struggles of a band trying to make it. It's really about the everyday consequences that Iraqi citizens face as a result of American occupation of their country (by the way, where are those WMDs again?). More personally and generally, it's about the struggles young adults face when they're caught between cultures and when their aspirations are constantly undermined by forces over which they have essentially no influence.

This is all illustrated by focusing on a group of young Iraqi men who happen to acquire a love for heavy metal, so they become musicians and try to get a viable band going in Iraq. Their affinity to heavy metal gives them a tie to American culture, but they still see themselves as fundamentally Iraqi, so they surely experience ambivalance about their cultural identity. And as their story unfolds, we find that, like a combination of Sisyphus and Tantalus, they're compelled to perpetually struggle to see their dream come to fruition, but chaotic and dangerous social, economic, and political circumstances always seem to conspire to keep it out of reach.

Yet, despite all this adversity, they maintain a sense of hope, and we're inspired by it. In this, we see another way that they reflect a characteristically American attitude. But at the very end of the documentary, their bitterness about American occupation and the devastation it has wreaked for their country comes out, with their despair becoming painfully palpable. The hope we shared with them is thus dashed, and the documentary ends on this depressing but real note.

Like I said, can you handle the truth? If so, or if you want to try (and have an open mind and at least a sliver of empathy), this documentary offers a uniquely useful window into the true consequences of war and oppression in the everyday lives of ordinary people."