Cinema Utopia: Syrian Metal Is War

A collection of accounts of Syrian metalheads and their methods of coping and survival, shot in 2013-2014 and smuggled out on a rubber boat journey to Europe.

A film by Monzer Darwish / Matar Productions
“Metal is our vessel for peace as well as an escape for the troubled.”

Syrian Metal Is War is a story by and about Syrian metalheads, who had long made, performed, and enjoyed their art at the risk of arrest, imprisonment, and worse, navigating the devastation of civil war in their country, persisting in their struggle for freedom and self-expression, and using their art to bring relief and solace to communities under siege. Unsurprisingly, metal in Syria, as anywhere else, is a politically and culturally contested space. The dynamics that emerge within and around the scene will be fascinatingly familiar to fans of heavy music everywhere.

As described by filmmaker and metal guitarist Monzer Darwish, it is a collection of accounts of Syrian metalheads and their methods of coping and survival throughout the notorious Syrian war. The footage survived the Syrian war and Darwish’s rubber boat journey to Europe. It was shot secretly in the years 2013-2014 without any authorization or suitable gear for filming, production, or editing. Part of the footage was lost.

I'm Monzer Darwish, a filmmaker, musician, and most importantly, a metalhead. Following the bombing of my town in 2013, I set out on a thrilling and deeply personal journey to document metal in Syria. The loss of the person who introduced me to metal pushed me forward. 

This journey led to many discoveries, heartaches, worries, and close encounters with death and mass destruction. Apart from the dangers of everyday life in Syria, this posed a special kind of danger on myself and those related to this work.

The Syrian war was realized with destruction, death, art, and music. Parallel to the war, a new persevering sound was made in the form of the New Wave of Syrian Metal, by groups of musicians armed with only instruments and large amounts of passion, working towards bringing metal back to Syria.

Timeline of Locations:
Hama – December 2013 / Lattakia – December 2013 / Aleppo – December 2013 / Beirut, Lebanon – February 2014 / Damascus – April 2014 / Homs – May 2014 / Hama – May 2014 / Lattakia – May 2014. Additional footage from Deir ez-Zor

Featured bands:
Slumpark Correctional (Ali Khalil – Lattakia)
Orion / Ominous / The Rock Cave / 13 (Bashar Haroun – Aleppo)
Chaos (Matt / Aleppo)
Theoria / Crescent Moon (Besher Abo Shala & Ahmad Agha – Aleppo)
Weltschmerz (Jack Power – Aleppo)
Netherion (Mohamed Dimashqi – Damascus)
Eulen (Fadi Massamiri – Damascus; Salim – Damascus-Beirut)
Viieden (Abdullah Ghosheh – Damascus)
Rasas (Rawad Massih – Beirut)
The Hourglass / Blaakyum (Bassem Deaibess – Beirut)
Ambrotype (Adel Saflou – Aleppo-Beirut)
Exophoria / Monosoul (Anas – Damascus-Beirut)
Anarchadia (Nur Sabbagh, Mohamed Siam, Osama Abdulla – Beirut)
Hemorrhagia (John, Yazan, Mohamed, Joseph – Damascus-Beirut)
Haxml (Tarek Allan, Tamem Hammoud – Homs)
RockNa (Jamal al-Mohrez – Homs)
Haunted Cellar (Aboud Kabbas – Lattakia)

One highlight the AWC cannot allow to go unremarked upon is that one of the songs shown performed at a clandestine show at Buzz Cafe in Aleppo, December 2013, was “Slave New World” from Sepultura’s anti-colonial classic Chaos A.D. Watch and weep.

If you liked this film and appreciate the work Darwish and his friends did to bring this story to you, please consider supporting him and his projects with a Paypal donation here.

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