Heavy Metal in Baghdad Suroosh Alvi and Eddy Moretti

Heavy Metal in Baghdad Suroosh Alvi and Eddy Moretti

Acrassicauda are a heavy metal/rock band from Iraq. You probably haven’t heard of them because technically, they are the only able-bodied group of Muslims who play heavy metal music in Iraq. Hipster media monster Vice knows of them and travelled halfway across the globe to show you just how badass Baghdad can be, both in the trenches and in the mosh pits.

The aptly titled film was shot Guerrilla-style on handheld cameras by Canadian-born directors/Vice founders Eddy Moretti and Suroosh Alvi. We become instantly immersed in the misadventures of both the film crew (who get a harsh dose of post-Bush shock treatment) and the struggling band, who give a gleefully candid tour of their hell to their journalistic supporters.

To say that the film’s style is "gonzo” would be an understatement; the shots are mostly grainy and shaky, considering all the fleeing and re-routing that had to be done throughout. If it isn’t the non-stop shelling, creeping snipers or shambolic gunfire straining the process, it’s the widespread anxiety keeping the filmmakers on their toes.

Luckily, Alvi and Moretti retain a sharp sense of humour to quell the feelings of unrest that loom about. We’re often subjected to a dose of sardonic one-liners and jokes, and soon enough, Acrassicauda warm up to the pair’s empathy. There are a few heart-warming moments, like Vice funding the band’s biggest ever concert, at Baghdad’s Al-Fanar Hotel, surrounded by U.S. forces, private armies and police. The event is plagued by power outages and then panic when a mortar explodes next to the hotel. But the band members barely flinch. "We’re used to it,” says Tony, the band’s bassist. "We live with death every day. We get used to it. We’re not even allowed to grow our hair long because the government will persecute us for being Satanists.”

Vice also helped the group make their first demo record. Three full songs later, the band get plastered on Alvi and Moretti’s dime. While watching them stumble and belch like novices, it’s hard not to feel a sense of humility, which is what eventually transforms the film into a poignant reminder for those of us who take our freedom for granted. (Vice Films)