Heavy Metal in Baghdad

Synopsis: 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 band members – Firas (bass), Tony (lead guitar), Marwan (drums) and Faisal (lead vocals and rhythm guitar) – were bred on American heavy metal albums, learning to speak English by listening to Slayer, Metallica and Slipknot. Playing heavy metal in a Muslim country has always been a difficult (if not impossible) proposition, but, after Saddam’s regime was toppled, there was a brief moment for the band in which real freedom seemed possible. That hope was quickly dashed as their country fell into a bloody insurgency.

Directors Eddy Moretti and Suroosh Alvi traveled to Baghdad to find Acrassicauda, Iraq’s most famous heavy metal band. From 2003-2006, Iraq disintegrated around Acrassicauda while they struggled to stay together and stay alive, always refusing to let their heavy metal dreams die. Their story echoes the unspoken hopes of an entire generation of young Iraqis.

Heavy Metal in Baghdad 6.5

Expectation is everything. I thought that this documentary was about music, much like ‘Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey’ and ‘Global Metal’ were. Unfortunately, ‘Heavy Metal in Baghdad’ is primarily about the impact of the Iraq war on the fortunes of Acrassicauda, Iraq’s only metal band.

It’s sad to see people’s lives so intensely affected by forces that they can’t control, but none of the people interviewed here were particularly engaging to me. Likewise, the band’s music and performances, infrequently featured as they were, were also nothing of note.

I can’t say that I completed this film with a desire to explore the band beyond this point. I also can’t say that, while I empathize, I really want to know more about the outcome of the band members’ struggles.

Granted, this film has opened the door to a band I would never have heard of otherwise. Sadly, beyond the initial curiosity and the intellectual satisfaction that comes with awareness, it didn’t find a way to make me care.

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