Heavy Metal in Baghdad

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My co-worker Jason Hatcher turned me on to this clip from the new Vice film, Heavy Metal in Baghdad, directed by Eddy Moretti and Suroosh Alvi. Moretti is an NYU cinema studies grad and Alvi is a Vice magazine co-founder.

Featured at the Toronto Film Festival, the film follows the only Iraqi heavy metal band, Acrassicauda, from the fall of Saddam Hussein to today. While some headbangers contend with drug abuse and divisive band politics, Acrassicauda has stuck together despite the unimaginable hurdle of a country split apart by a bloody civil war.

I can't wait to see it if it ever makes it to ATL. No word yet.

Over the years the Vice magazine "brand" (could any term be more 2007?) has morphed into a renegade version of a Time Warner media company with books, clothing, a music label and now films all enfolded under the Vice empire.

Though laddish controversy-courting is Vice's coin of the realm, I admire its nose-thumbing, entrepreneurial spirit despite certain misgivings about its tendency toward chuggalugging irony and old-school gender posturing.

And the Vice move into filmmaking seems especially relevant, a continuation of the Vice crowd's growing interest in current events — like "Jackass" with a more political sensibility. I've seen several short Vice films in the 2006 The Vice Guide to Travel about buying black market weapons in Afghanistan and "investigating" the aftereffects of radiation at Chernobyl.

In some ways, those films feel like a continuation of the gonzo writing of Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe's immersion style of reportage. It's that strain of assaultive inquiry more than the Michael Moore brand of look-at-me documentary making that seems to drive the Vice films (though several of Heavy Metal's crew have connections to Moore), which often feature their directors in prominent roles. The whole Vice attitude toward war, politics and the everyday horrors people in other countries (check out this Vice website article on depressing Syrian brothels for a taste of what you won't be seeing on TV news) live with feels like a response to the monolithic corporate news culture. Sort of "The Daily Show" crossed with zine culture with a dash of Esquire.

I’m also a big fan of the Vice magazine dos and don’ts running commentary on street fashion (you can find the magazine locally at Criminal Records).

You can see a "what will the kids think of next?" New York Times feature on the Vice ethos here.

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