Under the Radar

Eagles of Death Metal Revisit the Bataclan Terror Attacks in 'Nos Amis'

It's impossible to watch the "Eagles of Death Metal: Not Amis (Our Friends)" documentary about the November 2015 terror attack at the band's Paris concert without thinking about Vegas. It's so hard to watch this film that I'm not sure I could handle seeing a similar film about the attack on the Route 91 Harvest music festival in October.

That doesn't mean you shouldn't watch this film and that we all shouldn't watch a film about Vegas that shares the focus that "Nos Amis" puts on the fans and the artists affected by that horrific event.

To recap: Eagles of Death Metal were headlining a concert at Paris' Bataclan theatre, a 1500-capacity historic venue, when a group of ISIS-affliliated terrorists entered the venue and started systematically killing the concertgoers. By the time they were finished, 89 people were dead and more than 200 wounded.

We've got a clip from the film about the moment when the terrorists started shooting.

Director Colin Hanks is perhaps best-known as an actor. He's currently on the CBS comedy series "Life in Pieces" and appeared in season 1 of "Fargo." Hanks has also developed a talent for documentary filmmaking, starting with his excellent elegy for a record store chain in "All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records." 

In "Nos Amis," Hanks focuses on the experiences of a group of fans who survived the attack, the band members and the unusually tight friendship between EODM lead singer Jesse Hughes and the band's sometime drummer (and Queens of the Stone Age guitarist/lead singer) Joshua Homme.

There's no examination of the terrorists or their motivations: Hanks lets the horror of the actions speak for themselves. Fortunately, there's none of the cellphone footage taken during the actual shootings. There's not even really much music in the film. There's just enough EODM for non-fans to figure out if they want to hear more from the band but not enough to prevent anyone who hates what they hear from absorbing the message of the film.

What you get is an exploration of how music lovers experience their favorite bands and the sense of community created by the shared love of a particular group. You also see a group of people (both fans and musicians) trying to process severe PTSD even though the film doesn't explicitly identify them has having that experience.

Jesse is a unique character in rock music, a guy who never would've fronted a band if his childhood best friend hadn't encouraged him to write songs as a way to cope with an imploded marriage. Jesse and Joshua would've warranted their own documentary even without the Paris events and, even though he wasn't on tour with the band in Paris, it's Homme's steadying presence that helps Jesse return to Paris to "finish the show" at a February 2016 concert at the Olympia Theatre.

I understand that not everyone enjoys or "gets" the arts, but it's important to understand that artistic freedom is one of America's greatest exports to the world. Western music and movies played no small role in ending the Cold War and there are still dozens of countries around the world whose citizens are amazed by what our government "lets" filmmakers and musicians say with their art.

It's why they hate us. And that's why it's so important to defend our arts culture. 

 

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