Beyond Barricades: The Story of Anti-Flag (2020)



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Beyond Barricades is a documentary about the politically charged punk band Anti-Flag. Like their contemporaries Bad Religion, their name embodies their system of beliefs in just two words. They are one of my favorite bands and since discovering them in high school have informed my political belief system. I have a natural aversion to ‘flag-waving patriots’ because of lyrics they wrote on multiple songs on their Mobilize album.


Mobilize was released in 2002 after the 9/11 attacks. It is a pro-peace album against the rallying around the flag and invasion of Afghanistan. The documentary spends a lot of time following the struggles the band has faced against external forces. Internally there are not many struggles in the documentary with the current lineup.


As a political band, Anti-Flag has been engaged with the existing political framework. The No Child Left Behind Act forced schools receiving federal funds to divulge contact information for students to military recruiters. Anti-Flag set up a nonprofit, Military Free Zone, to end this practice. When I heard about it, I was in high school and gave my school the Opt-out form to prevent them from sending my information to recruiters. In 2004 images of Anti-Flag were shown inside the House of Representatives by Representative Jim McDermott; Rep. Jim McDermott on Anti-Flag | C-SPAN.org (c-span.org). Anti-Flag was a key member of the Rock Against Bush tour that encouraged concertgoers to register to vote before the 2004 election.


The documentary does a great job of summing up Anti-Flags career so far. Where other documentaries would play up signing to a major label and becoming outcasts amongst their community, this one focuses on how Anti-Flag harnessed that increased budget and wider exposure. It does a great job of showing just how committed Anti-Flag is to the causes that they believe in.


We have not been able to go to concerts for almost a year and there is no definitive end in sight. If you miss sweaty packed punk shows this documentary may scratch that itch. If you want to see how much change a single band can bring about this documentary can show you the way. There has never been a place Anti-Flag has refused to go physically or in their songs. This is a must-watch for even the most casual Anti-Flag fan.

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