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Taken from Arizona Daily Star (Feb 02, 2006)

Bringing home the cost of war

Franti to screen the movie he made on Baghdad trip

by Gerald M. Gay

Michael Franti
Michael Franti, leader of Spearhead,
will perform twice in Tucson.

As the bombs began dropping on Baghdad in 2003, Michael Franti sat glued to his television.

"I wanted to know the feelings from everyday people about what was going on down there," the singer-songwriter said in a phone interview last week from his San Francisco home. "But I didn't see or hear anything like that."

Barraged by a televised onslaught of politicians, pundits and generals, Franti became overwhelmed with frustration.

He decided to take matters into his own hands. The 38-year-old musician, armed with a camera, a guitar and a group of friends, traveled to Iraq's capital city two months after its fall and then to Israel and the West Bank to document the human cost of war.

He will screen the resulting film, "I Know I'm Not Alone," with an accompanying solo set Sunday at the Rialto Theatre. He performs with his band Spearhead in a separate Rialto show Saturday.

The trip was a surreal experience for Franti, who managed to meet with an Iraqi heavy metal band, hold a DJ party at the Baghdad Sheraton for U.S. troops and play guitar for children in a busy Palestinian market.

The California-born performer said it was easy to get into Iraq. "All anyone needs is a plane ticket," he said. "We thought you would need a State Department clearance, but you don't."

The rest of his journey was more difficult. Explosions were not uncommon in Baghdad, and Franti was actually shot at by Israeli soldiers when he crossed into a curfew zone in the West Bank town of Hebron.

"Every moment I was there (in Baghdad) I was scared," he said. "When you are in Baghdad you can't really go wherever you want, whenever you want. The drivers we hired would tell us which places would be safe to go and which would be too risky. We would stay up in our hotel until 4:30 in the morning when the gunfire and mortar fire would subside."

Despite the danger, the trip was well worth it, he said. From the Baghdad tattoo parlors to the artist cafes to the talks with Israeli and Palestinian families, Franti witnessed the cost of war and the power of the human spirit.

"I saw how when I'd play guitar or go listen to an Iraqi, Israeli or Palestinian musician, the goddess of music would bring joy to people everywhere," he said.

Despite his well-known stance against the Bush administration, Franti didn't want to use the film to fight the president.

"I intentionally steered away from making this a Bush-bashing film," he said. "The best case against war is not political argument. The best case against war is what war does to human beings. It wasn't until Martin Luther King saw photographs of what was going on in Vietnam that he began to speak out against the war. Those images really influenced people. That's what I wanted to do.

"The war isn't going to stop if we bash Bush. The war is going to stop when people on both sides of the aisle realize too many people are being killed, too many of our resources are overseas and this war has no time limit on it. When everyone sees these things this war will stop."

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at 573-4137 or ggay@azstarnet.com


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