City Paper is not for tourists
There’s actually not a whole lot of music in Heavy Metal in Baghdad, Eddy Moretti’ and Suroosh Alvi’s documentary on Iraq’s sole metal band. But that’s less a fault of the film than proof of how difficult it is to do much of anything in the war-torn country, especially participating in an art form that defies your society’s religious and cultural strictures. Acrassicauda—Latin for “black scorpion‚” is a foursome of Slipknot-loving dudes who began playing together in 2001 but managed to play only three gigs before the 2003 invasion, at which point band concerns went beyond simply hoping for a decent crowd to wondering whether there would be power for their amps and, more alarmingly, whether they would even survive the performance. The filmmakers check in with Acrassicauda between 2003 and 2006, as the fate of the group (and the documentary) becomes increasingly precarious: The band’s practice space was bombed, members sought refuge in Syria, and filming was often cut short by security and nearby gunfire. That last complication may account for the doc’s biggest downfall: its tendency to repeat itself as the musicians recount the dangers they face but comment on little else. (Interestingly, blaming America doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s agenda.) Seeing Iraqi life from an Everyman perspective is refreshing and heartbreaking, though, and when the band does get to rock out before deliriously happy, headbanging fans, the joyfulness makes up for any lulls.