Scream for Me Sarajevo
Bruce Dickinson, Alen Ajanovic, Esad Bratov
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…there’s something insanely ‘metal’ at the heart of this tale…
Minor quibbles aside, there’s something insanely ‘metal’ at the heart of this tale…
In 1994, Bruce Dickinson, knee deep in a solo career after his years as the front man for hard rock/metal icons Iron Maiden, recorded an album entitled Balls to Picasso. Touring that album took Dickinson all over the world and most bizarrely, resulted in an invitation to perform in Sarajevo. A British United Nations officer and a UN Fire Department employee thought it’d be awesome to invite the ex-lead singer of Iron Maiden to a war zone to play a gig for the locals.
At the time, Sarajevo was a city under siege. Mortar shells and sniper bullets rained down on the embattled citizenry as they moved hurriedly through bombed out streets, attempting to maintain at least a semblance of the life they once knew. There was a strong metal scene in Sarajevo, young bands still performed and rehearsed, at least whenever there was electricity to power their instruments. Their guitars were the first thing they’d grab as they’d run for cover when the shelling started. English hard rock and metal was inspirational to these young fans and for many of them, it was a way for them to channel their frustrations and fears into something positive.
Though Dickinson had departed Iron Maiden in preference of a solo career, his voice was synonymous with the UK metal giants and meant everything to young metal fans in Sarajevo, particularly in a time of war and under bombardment. The metal ethos of self-empowerment and throwing a middle finger to the world was therapeutic for them. As word began to spread that Dickinson had agreed to play in Sarajevo, the idea of a metal gig amidst the horror became a touchstone that represented the predominant never say die attitude, articulated well by a favourite band in the charts at that moment, Rage Against the Machine: “Fuck You, I won’t do what you tell me!”.
So, as Dickinson and the musicians who originally accompanied him return to Sarajevo with the documentary crew, they revisit the places and the memories of Sarajevo during that time. There’s some real moments of horror witnessed by some of the band and the peripheral people on the tour, it was clearly an undeniably bizarre situation for a rock band to be in.
The film makes use of footage shot at the time, of the band’s initial journey into the city under siege and of the gig itself. While the story is a great one and it’s certainly moving at times, it sometimes feels po-faced at points, in a way that makes the viewer feel guilty for thinking that, given the subjects are survivors of extreme circumstances. Minor quibbles aside, there’s something insanely ‘metal’ at the heart of this tale and kudos to Dickinson and his band for having the stones to do what they do best and help a group of fans remember what it felt like to be human, free and alive.