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Taken from betterPropaganda (Feb, 2005)

Michael Franti Film: I Know I'm Not Alone

by betterPropaganda

Michael FrantiSan Francisco-based musician, poet and activist Michael Franti can now add 'filmmaker' to his resume.  The frontman for the critically acclaimed band Spearhead has had his first documentary film I Know I'm Not Alone selected to close noted indie film festival Slamdance on January 28, 2005.  Franti and Spearhead will perform at the Opening Night Gala for Sundance on January 20th.

I Know I'm Not Alone is still a work in progress as it was only filmed this summer, but it was accepted by the festival based on its strength and meaningfulness.  Slamdance festival director Kathleen McInnis asserted that, "We feel the documentary film to be the last stand of truly independent filmmaking- not yet co-opted by studios or the mini-majors but instead fresh voices from filmmakers almost always nearly shy of resources but rich in story."

Armed with an acoustic guitar and a video camera, Michael Franti takes viewers on a musical journey through war, life and occupation in Iraq, Israel, Jordan and Palestinian occupied territories. Along the way he shares his music with families, doctors, musicians, soldiers and everyday people who in turn reveal to him the often overlooked human cost of war.  Told in their own words, this film provides a rare glimpse into the lives of those who are affected the most by war.   Michael's storytelling and songs masterfully weave the film into a visual and musical tribute to the resilience of the human spirit.

A musical montage revisits the characters and places encountered throughout the documentary and closes the film with inspired song and reflection.  The film's soundtrack was written by Franti during and after his experience this summer.

With its artistic film and editing techniques using raw production elements, the documentary is unlike the many informational and politically driven pieces in the marketplace, instead offering the audience a sense of journey and the opportunity to hear the voices of everyday people living with the harsh conditions of war and occupation.

While in Iraq, Franti and company are involved in numerous diverse activities including visiting a children's hospital and an underground tattoo parlor, meeting with an Iraqi hard rock band, hanging out at an artists and poets lair as well as being interviewed on local TV.

While talking with on-duty US soldiers in Saddam Hussein square, a bomb explodes. The group are forced to go inside for safety and end up at The Sheraton Hotel with Michael performing a few songs- notably his anti-war piece "Bomb the World," singing "...you can bomb the world to pieces, but you can't bomb it into peace..." to a tense group of US soldiers in a bar at the top of the hotel. (editors note: we talked to Franti about this incident and his trip to the Middle East in an exclusive interview)

After the set, the group is asked to leave by Kellogg CEO Oliver Nash and then Michael is invited to perform live-on-air at the first independent radio station in Iraq on a lower floor in The Sheraton.  Soon enough some of the soldiers come down to join the party and guest DJing ends the day on a joyful note.

Joy, a desire for peace and love for the human spirit embody Michael Franti's musical message and with "I Know I'm Not Alone," the artist spreads his ideas to a different audience via a new medium.


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