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Taken from MailTribune.com (November 11, 2005)

Stories from Iraq, Israel and Palestine


Michael Franti
Michael Franti and the band Spearhead
are known for playing driving,
layered, guitar-driven world music.

Michael Franti is better known as a musician than a filmmaker. Franti and the band Spearhead are known for playing driving, layered, guitar-driven world music. But in June of last year Franti took his guitar and a video camera to the Middle East to find and tell the human stories in Iraq, Israel and Palestine. He calls the resulting film "I Know I?m Not Alone."

Franti plans to be on hand for a showing of his film at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15, at the old Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St., Ashland. Tickets are $15 at Music Coop and Low Down Boards in Ashland, or $20 at the door. Visit http://www.mkpmusic.com/.

This is an all-ages event with a beer garden, photo ID required. A question-and-answer period will follow the film, after which Franti will play a solo acoustic musical set.

The film affords a glimpse into the lives of some of the people who are most affected by war. Franti shared his music with families, doctors, musicians, soldiers and everyday people, who in turn revealed to him the human costs.

With a compelling soundtrack, visual and musical montages and Franti?s voice-overs, the film uses raw production techniques to offer audiences a feel for the region and for people living with the harsh conditions of war and occupation.

Here is Baghdad, still dangerous, still without electricity much of the time, long after the American defeat of Saddam Hussein and occupation of the country. Franti and his friends come upon an underground tattoo parlor (forbidden under Saddam), where a retired U.S. Army captain volunteers for a tattoo.

At one point Franti runs into members of a heavy metal band calling themselves The Black Scorpions. They say there?s little freedom of expression. But then, you usually can?t find instruments to play here anyway. The group visits Cafe Hiwar, a hangout for artists and poets who talk about music, poetry and oppression.

In one scene, just after a bomb has exploded, Franti sings his anti-war song "Bomb the World" to a group of U.S. soldiers in the bar at the Sheraton Hotel. Sample lyric: "You can bomb the world to pieces, but you can?t bomb it into peace ... " Franti visits a children?s hospital where limbs sometimes apparently must be amputated due to a lack of simple antibiotics.

The group visits Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In one scene there?s a heated argument between soldiers and villagers. Franti visits Hebron, where he?s swarmed by young people and apparently shot at by Israeli soldiers. He meets refuzniks in jail, a Rabbi for peace, a political hip-hop group, Palestinian farmers and others.

He does not solve anything, but he manages to start dialogs here and there.

Reach reporter Bill Varble at 776-4478 or e-mail Bill Varble.


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