Wednesday, October 14, 2009


By now, you guys are probably pretty familiar with my taste in movies. I love a good splatter flick, a stupid 80's comedy, or a mindless action extravaganza. But I also dig a good documentary, as long as it makes me think and/or laugh. Global Metal, anthropologist-turned-filmmaker Sam Dunn's follow-up to 2006's Metal: A Headbanger's Journey, is just such a film, and more. Although it was released internationally in 2008, I just got around to watching it last week, and it has also taken me that much time to fully digest it.

Below: Sam Dunn (right), pictured with co-director Scot MacFayden.

Much like Vice Films' Heavy Metal In Baghdad, Global Metal approaches the topic of heavy metal as a socio-political phenomenon, filming its adherents at street level, on their own terms. But GM takes on a much more international view, travelling from Brazil to Japan to China to Israel to Muslim strongholds like Indonesia, India, and Iran to document the views of underground (and often third world) metalheads. This is what makes it such a compelling film. Hearing the views of the average Iranian metallion, not only on the subject of metal but also on the subject of everyday life in their country, isn't something you're going to see on the nightly news. These are Bros in their natural environment, explaining their passion for a style of music that had been banned for decades in their homeland. But the movie is about MUCH MORE than just metal.

Below: Indonesian thrashers. I want to party with these dudes.

Left: Behold, Slayer graffiti in the streets of Iran. Sweet.

Global Metal isn't just for the metalheads. Dunn might be a metal fan first, but he is an anthropologist second, and a close second at that. His dissection of the culture and political climate at each of his stops is eye-opening to say the least, as he visits mosques, shanties, karaoke bars, and the hallowed "metal mall" in Rio de Janiero through the course of the film. The subject of globaliztion takes the front seat, and observing the mish-mash of Eastern and Western culture via the heavy metal scene is inspiring. The cinemotagraphy is top-notch as well, with Sam's small film crew capturing mind-blowing images of Brazilian beaches and mountains, Japanese street life, and even the Great Wall of China. The obscure "archive" footage is pretty insane, too. We are treated to images of Iron Maiden and Scorpions performing in front of literally hundreds of thousands of people at Rock in Rio in the early 80's (the first music festival in which Brazil opened its borders to European and American acts), and also the first western concert in Jakarta in the early 90's. The band featured is Metallica, and the images of buildings burning just outside the stadium as the band plays on is a striking one.

My favorite moments in the film came upon the crew's arrival in Japan, though. As I mentioned before, Global Metal was my first in-depth taste of the Visual Kei movement (albeit through the eyes of Marty Friedmann), a subject I find endlessly fascinating and equally entertaining. And you just can't argue with the image of a large group of fifty-something Japanese businessmen in suits and ties, getting hammered in a karaoke bar and singing along to Deep Purple's "Highway Star".
If there's any issue with Global Metal, it's the lack of live footage from local bands. The footage included is fucking great, and turned me on to several new bands. But there isn't much of it, and some bands aren't even identified. Also, listening to Lars Ulrich talk about how he thinks music piracy is "totally cool" can be a little tooth-grinding.
All in all, Global Metal is a flick everyone should check out at least once, whether you're a metal fan or not. It's a fascinating look not only at a musical genre, but also at a growing culture shared between continents and people thousands of miles away from each other. It's everything Until The Light Takes Us SHOULD HAVE been, and an encouraging "Chapter 2" in Sam Dunn's filmmaking legacy. Check it out.

Above: Bruce Dickinson shares his thoughts on all things Maiden. Below: I actually preferred hearing the opinions of these guys regarding Iron Maiden. No offense, Bruce.

Watch the trailer. Then go get it on Netflix.


Helm said...

this documentary was much more interesting than his last due to the world-hopping aspect, always fascinating to see how other peoples have interpreted HM.

The failing of this - and the previous where it was more glaring - fimn is that nowhere does it touch on what HM is. I'm not asking for an all-encompassing definition, but considering how this could be viewed by people that aren't metalheads to begin with, at least a contrasting defition against hard rock, blues, pop-rock, jazz, classical music and so on would be of much use to a lot of the intended audience. There is a lot of talk about the lineage of HM in the first movie, but that's not the same as examining aesthetics, lyrics, or even from a musicological POV. My dad watched this and I found myself having to explain in simple terms the missing artifacts that explain the patches of culture these two movies showcase.

As an anthropological piece then, lots to be desired. But dude, there's die-for-metal dudes in Indonesia, that's awesome!

Shelby Cobras said...

Yeah I guess in a way this film is made FOR metalheads, in that it takes a lot of information for granted. I'm sure if I watched it with my mom I'd have to explain quite a bit, too. But as far as metal docs go, I still think this one is head and shoulders above anything else.

Daniel said...

I dug it.