"Beats For Baghdad" Shocks and Awes

Mixing gritty live video footage, photos, spoken word performances, and an unlikely foreign correspondent "Beats for Baghdad", a documentary-concert film, provides a unique insight into the workings of Baghdad and it's people in the days leading up to, and first days of, "Shock and Awe" in March 2003. Jerry Quickley, spoken word artist and host of KPFK's "Beneath the Surface" for Pacifica Radio, proves to be a compelling journalist, (however unlikely some may think) when given the opportunity.


The film begins with Quickley's last supper before he departs for Baghdad with his small video camera in February of 2003. The symbolism here is so strong its hard not too realize the danger of being a foreign correspondent in a war zone. He then lands in Jordan, and eventually makes it to Baghdad just in time to be shocked and awed by the coalition offensive.

Quickley on the streets of Baghdad

Through the film though Quickley's search for the truth proves to be difficult. Whether he is attempting to receive a journalist visa, get to Baghdad, or interact with the Iraqi people in such tenuous circumstances it is never easy to document the emotions of a people who are about to go to war. Though difficult, Quickley never stops searching in this film, helping to make this film feel genuine while conveying the human story from Baghdad.

This film also succeeds in successfully marrying the edgy film footage from Baghdad with spoken word performances from Quickley and his band featuring Walter Miranda from Ozomatli, Money Mark Nishita from the Beastie Boys, Goffrey Moore, and Clinton Cameran at the Cabaret Voltaire in L.A. Also performing are poets Besskepp, and Mark Gonzales, and musical act String Theory. These performances provide an exclamation point to the live footage from Baghdad. The film weaves these two together in an honest way that doesn't try to force any stylistic sensibility, but instead allows the edginess of both sights and sounds to create its own unique sensibility.

Quickley on stage at Cabaret Voltaire

In addition to the film, the DVD also features 54 minutes of bonus features. These include additional performances by String Theory, Quickley and others.

Overall I found this documentary-concert film to be both provocative and enjoyable. It's contrast to the slick production of Michael Moore and the impersonal story telling of embedded reporters and mainstream media is refreshing. Quickley is upfront both in his reporting and his intentions, admitting, "I'll give you the truth, or at least some part of it." Additionally, the spoken word performances are excellent, and the performers display true passion and feeling which further lends to the authenticity of the film.

"Beats for Baghdad" is produced and directed by Christian Jon Meoli, Jerry Quickley, Clayton Rohner, and Chris Spiro and will be available on October 14, 2004. There will be a DVD release event at Amoeba Record Store at 7:00 pm and will feature an in-store performance from Quickley with band members and Gonzales. Afterwards there will be a release party at CineSpace at 9:00, sponsered by LA Splash Magazine, with live performances by The Fabulous Entourage, Danny Nucci, and Area Product, an up and coming hip hop band. Those who attend and purchase a DVD at the release event will receive free admission to the release party. For those who choose to pay at the door, proceeds from the party will be benefiting Veterans for Peace and Helping Others Through Entertainment and will cost $20.

For more info, www.cabaretvoltaire.org

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