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SXSW Film Festival: Iron Maiden rules! Anvil endures!

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Last night in Austin, festival-goers with a taste for white sneakers and concert t-shirts surged into the Paramount Theater for the American premiere of the rock documentary Iron Maiden: Flight 666. There were families where the kids and parents and even Grandma were in Iron Maiden t-shirts. One young man decided to watch the movie with his shirt off, so that he could wind it like a lasso over his head during “Run to the Hills.”

Directors Sam Dunn and Scott McFadyen (Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey) followed the British metal band on their 2008 Somewhere Back In Time World Tour. Singer Bruce Dickinson, who seemed came across like the sunny and amiable billionaire Richard Branson, piloted the 757 Ed Force One jet that took the band, crew, and all their gear around the world.

In Mumbai, India, teenagers sick of Bollywood music flooded the sold-out stadium. In Guadalajara, Mexico, the crowd chanted in unison “Ole, ole, ole, ole! Mai-den! Mai-den!” Outside of Sao Paola, Brazil, the directors interviewed a rural minister who bases his sermons around the band’s lyrics, named his son after the bassist Steve Harris, and has 162 Iron Maiden tattoos on his body. Then he took off his vestments and showed off the tattoo of the band’s mascot Eddie that was made to look like it was tied down between his nipples and belly button. When the Father undulated his belly, he said it looked like Eddie was trying to escape. (This might have been my most favorite moment of the Film Festival so far.)

Right around the time the jolly blokes in Iron Maiden were being whisked into a 5-star hotel in Chile, as crying fans pounded on the glass front doors, I had to cut out early if I was going make it to the screening of Anvil: The Story of Anvil. This documentary is about a couple of metal heads who met when they were teenagers in small-town Ontario and went on to produce a seminal album Metal on Metal. But then, as their peers shot to greatness, singer Lips and drummer Robb found themselves somehow  limping back into obscurity. “Everybody sort of ripped ’em off and sorta left them for dead,” Slash says in the film.

The movie is full of swift kicks to the heart. Lips talks about hisenduring dream to become a rock star while loading up coolers of foodat his catering job to deliver to a high school. The band plays Lips’50th birthday party at a sad sports bar. The band embarks on anincredibly ill-managed European tour and the bar owner in Prague triesto pay them in goulash. At a Transylvania metal festival, they play toa crowd of 174 in a 10,000 capacity space. Thankfully — or I would havekilled myself — these guys get a break towards the end of the film, andthe audience clapped spontaneously over their much-deserved moment inthe sun.

Afterward, Lips, wearing a motorcycle jacket and white sneakers, andRobb, decked out in a knee-length leather coat, shuffled up to thestage and the audience gave those old rockers a long standing ovation.VH1 has taken up the Anvil cause and will be bringing the movie to theatersin April 2009, and then to TV and DVD. Finally, finally, their threedecades of passion and patience may be paying off. Justice!

What do you think PopWatchers? Have you ever heard of Anvil? Willyou buy an Anvil t-shirt now just to support them? Do you have an IronMaiden tattoo? Does your preacher?