On receiving Michael Franti’s documentary I Know I’m Not Alone, my first thoughts were that here was yet another well-meaning musician who wanted to teach the world to sing. I managed to maintain that attitude for about 10 minutes. The film takes a little while to warm up but once in full flow any thoughts of musical megalomania are dispelled.
Franti, best known for his stunning political music in the band Spearhead, travels to Iraq and Israel to discover the impacts that military occupations have on ordinary people. The voices of those people is sometimes lost in the music-video style editing, yet frequent glimpses of stunning truths do come through. I Know I’m Not Alone is at its best when it goes beyond the immediate horrors of the conditions people live in and seeks out the deeper feelings behind hatred and suspicion. The strongest episode is towards the end at the Green Line in Gaza, when teenage Israeli soldiers and Palestinian farmers talk openly and intimately to one another about their fears and hopes. In the context of the American media, Franti’s film is a breath of fresh air, particularly with the footage from Iraq where everyone from taxi drivers to a heavy metal band airs their views. Not always with the same political message, Franti gives space to many perspectives, weaving in his own humble message that he’s not on the side of Iraqis, or Americans, or Palestinians or Israelis – he’s on the side of the peacemakers. Oh yeah, and his music is pretty good too.Heidi Bachram